17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 63; leave - I inform the House that the Third Victory Loan of £100,000,000 has been oversubscribed by £7,144,920, the number of investors being 412,255. It is anticipated that these figures will be slightly increased when Service applications now in transit from distant centres have been received. For all prac1tical purposes, however, they may be regarded as final.
Suggested Visit to Australia
– As the combined weight and might of the naval, military and air forces of the British Commonwealth of Nations are now being directed against the Japanese, will the Acting Prime Minister consider extending to Britain’s great Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, a warm invitation to visit Australia and the South-“West Pacific war zone, for the purpose of consultations with the Commonwealth Government and the chiefs of the different services?
– The whole of the Australian people would give a very warm welcome to Mr. Churchill were he to visit this country. I shall ask the Prime Minister to give favorable consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to the tentative proposals alleged to have been decided on by Federal and State authorities for the rationing of electricity in Sydney? Has the Government considered the advisability of directing that other sources of electric power, designed to come into operation in an emergency, shall be used to maintain- full supply to the industries affected? Has the Minister considered the engagement of a staff of technical men who are outside the dispute, to attend to the maintenance of operating plant? Alternatively, will he submit to cabinet a request along the lines of that made for the importation of 3000 artisans for the servicing of the British Fleet, namely, that the British Government be asked to send to Australia a number of artisans to assure the maintenance of electric power supply from the Bunnerong and Pyrmont power houses for essential war purposes?
– The question should have been directed to the Minister for Munitions. I have seen the press statement mentioned. Mr. Moss, the Chief Commonwealth Electrical Officer, held consultations with New South Wales officers yesterday, and these are being continued to-day. In addition, a conference to consider the dispute was held yesterday, and is meeting also to-day. I hope that these attempts to end the dispute will prove successful; but, if they do “ not, and .precautions have to be taken to ensure the curtailment of the general use of power and. light so that the most essential services shall have priority, the honorable member may rest assured that the matter will have the attention of the Commonwealth Government.
Relief by Motor Vehicles - Conservation.
– In view of the shortage of feed for horses that are used for the delivery of goods in many country towns, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ask that gentleman to consider making available sufficient petrol to enable essential deliveries to be made by motor car or truck, in order that horses for which feed cannot be provided may be turned out for agistment in suitable areas; also to enable trucks that are fitted with producer gas units to undertake heavy haulage which, in many places, is now done by horses?
– In the circumstances caused by the drought, the request is a most reasonable one, and every effort should be made to meet it, but the degree to which compliance with it is possible inust be determined by the supplies of petrol that are available.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to state whether or not Western Australia has organized the cutting of 24,000 tons of hay for the eastern States, under Commonwealth guarantee. If so, has the transport of this hay, and of other fodder that is urgently required by the eastern States, been held up because of a refusal to work by the Collie coal-miners? If these are facts, will the Minister state what steps, if any, he has taken to ensure that this fodder shall reach- ports, thus enabling the loading of the 1,000 tons a week which he mentioned yesterday, in addition to permitting other deliveries to reach the eastern States by rail ?
– Arrangements were made ‘by the Commonwealth Government with the Government of Western Australia, for the supply of an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 tons of hay. So far, only small quantities of fodder have been transported, because of the limited shipping available and the expediency of getting wheat to the eastern States. Deliveries have now been speeded up, and 1,000 tons of wheat a week will be transported. The military authorities have made trucks available, and these will enable the transport of between 200 and 300 tons of fodder a week by sea and an additional 250 tons a week by rail. So far as I am aware, the conveyance of fodder to the eastern States has not been held up because of cessation of work by the Collie coal-miners. That dispute has practically been settled, as the result of consultations with the Minister for Labour and National Service, and an immediate resumption of work is expected.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House how many years have elapsed since his predecessor, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) attempted to induce the States to adopt a fodder conservation scheme? What financial assistance to that end did the Minister offer, on behalf of the Government, when, in 1942, he urged the States to carry out such a scheme? In view of the importance of fodder conservation as an assurance against the loss of stock through drought, what steps is the Minister now taking to induce the States to adopt such a scheme?
– It is true that the right honorable member for Cowper, when Minister for Commerce, was deeply interested in fodder conservation. “When I succeeded him, there was a Commonwealth Fodder Conservation Committee, but it was subsequently disbanded because it was unable to obtain direct cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth, although money had been made available for the purposes of a conservation scheme. The committee was disbanded at the request of the chairman, the Honorable E. J. Eggins, M.L.C., who had done much valuable work, in conjunction with the other members of the committee, in endeavouring to secure .the necessary ‘action; but as they considered that their efforts had been abortive they asked me to dissolve the committee, and I acceded to their request. The Government had previously made certain sums of money available for the encouragement of fodder conservation, and I was instructed to intimate to the Australian Agricultural Council that the Commonwealth was .prepared to subsidize contributions by the States on a two to one basis. The only .States which accepted the offer were New South Wales and Queensland. In the other States the fodder position was considered satisfactory, and they did not choose to participate in the scheme. After much negotiation between the Commonwealth and New South Wales and Queensland, no practical solution of the problem was reached, and on the recommendation of Mr. Eggins, acting on behalf of the committee, that body was disbanded. We now realize the absolute necessity for an extensive fodder conservation scheme. As recently as Friday last, I met representatives of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation in conference in Canberra. That body is representative of all of the States, and it asked that the Government should again take the matter up with the States, with a view to joint action, which would at least relieve the tragic position which has arisen through the recent drought. I promised to do that, and I intend to discuss the matter fully at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. I am confident that the ‘Government will do all it possibly can to finance a suitable scheme, and put it into operation.
– I have received a letter from Mr. H. Gardiner, honorary secretary of the Billinadgel branch of the Primary Producers’ Union, who asks me to draw the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the critical position which has arisen in respect of the pig-raising industry on the far north coast of New South Wales. . He states in his letter that very few farmers have more than three weeks’ feed available for their pigs. They have reared them to a certain stage with wheat, -but as no more wheat is available, and the pigs cannot be marketed under the present regulations, my correspondent asks what steps will be taken to meet the situation, first in respect of the supply of fodder, and secondly with regard to an alteration of the regulations to enable underweight pigs to be marketed for local consumption and otherwise ? The alternative suggested in the final part of the letter is that, if the Minister is unable to do anything in respect of those matters, he might take up with the Minister for Munitions a proposal that the farmers should each be provided with a couple of boxes of 22 calibre ammunition so that they might destroy their pigs.
– In the main, the position is as the honorable member and his correspondent have stated. A considerable reduction has occurred in the quantities of feed made available for pigs, and wheat seems to be the only fodder which pig-feeders throughout the Commonwealth can obtain. Supplies have been rationed and have been cut down by 50 per cent. Arrangements have been made by the Government for the importation of fodder from overseas. As I stated in the House last night, some millions of bushels of barley and grain sorghum are being imported from the United States of America. Some of this is expected to arrive in
July, and the Government hopes that the position will be relieved. The present allocation has been determined in accordance with the supplies available. The lowest point has been reached, and the Government hopes that the position will now remain static until next season. The minimum overall weight at which pigs may be marketed has been fixed at 80 lb., and the Controller of Meat Supplies is keeping the matter constantly under review. I have issued instructions that if the position can be improved by further reducing the weight, that must be done. There are difficulties in the way, but for the time being the weight has been reduced by about 15 lb. a head. We have asked the pig-farmers to reduce the weight of pigs that were being fattened to the’ weight of 200-lb. to about 170 or 180 lb.
Releases - Detention of SAPPER Slade.
– I have received from Mr. Funnell, Director-General of Man Power, a letter dated the 14th May, in which he has stated -
YOU are no doubt aware of the decision taken by the Government early this year to release 30,000 men from the Army for return to high priority work. Unfortunately, those releases have proceeded to the point that the number remaining for release is so small that I have been forced to direct my deputies that, for the time being, no further recommendations ure to be made for the release of men for return to rural industry. The position may possibly be different following the review of the overall man-power position the War Commitments Committee is to consider next month.
As next month will bc too late for the sowing of seed wheat in many of the areas in which rain has fallen, will the Minister for Labour and National Service anticipate the decision of the War Commitments Committee by directing the Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales to continue to make recommendations for the release of manpower for rural industry?
– I have no authority to do that. But I shall certainly consult the Acting Prime Minister, with a view to seeing whether or not something may be done to meet the position, because of the urgency of the time factor. I shall communicate this after noon with Mr. Funnell, and shall ask him to steer into rural industry whatever man-power may be available.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question concerning administrative procedure. By way of explanation, I point out that, in the Clarence River district, there has been for the last two years neither a saddler nor a blacksmith. The farmers’ organiza-tion in the district, representing about 1,000 farmers, applied for the release from the Army of two mon, one a saddler and the other a blacksmith. Their application was supported by the man-power authority, who recommended a release. This was refused, and the applicants were advised to renew their application to the commanding officer of the battalion in which the men were serving. This was done, and the application was again refused. The man-power authority tried to engage a blacksmith and a saddler in Sydney, because farm work in the district was being interfered with in the absence of such tradesmen. The following extract is from a letter which I have received from the New South Wales Cane Growers Association : -
It appears that the National Service officer claimed that they had a man in Sydney who would undertake the work; Mr. Grayson agreed to employ this person, but you will notice that the effort of Man Power to procure a suitable man for the work has again proved abortive.
– Will the right honorable member ask his question?
– I am. trying to find out to whom I should apply, in order to secure the release of these men. The letter continues -
We would respectfully ask you to press this case as the cane season commences on the 20th June next, and something will have to be done about the matter. Many of the farmers’ repairs are two years in arrears. They are discouraged, and effort is fast waning, and the initiative to produce is being destroyed by the unreasonableness of the powers that bc. It is useless farmers trying to produce-
– Order ! The right honorable member must ask a question.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister tell me what authority I should approach in order to obtain redress, because the * present situation is adversely affecting the production of sugar, vegetables and milk, as well as other primary products?
– If the right honorable member will let me have a brief statement of the circumstances of the case, and the names of the persons concerned, I shall arrange to have the matter looked into.
– Some weeks ago I brought under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army the case of Sapper Slade, who was sentenced to detention at Grovely Detention Camp for having been absent without leave, despite the fact that he had a certificate of discharge from the Army. When will the Minister reply?
– I regret that the Army authorities have not provided an answer to the honorable gentleman’s question. I shall have the reply expedited.
Part in European Victory - Leave for Rehabilitation Courses.
– If the Acting Prime Minister has not already done so, will he cable to the High Commissioner in London, expressing the Government’s appreciation of the part which the thousands of members of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed in Britain have played in the operations which led to the victory of the Allied forces in Europe? Will he also take steps to ensure that, upon completion of the task of conveying prisoners of war from Germany to Britain, these nien, together with ex-prisoners of war, who are members of the Australian Army, shall be given long leave of up to three months, so as to enable them to take advantage of rehabilitation and educational courses in Britain if they so desire?
– In reply .to the first part of the honorable member’s question, a congratulatory cablegram has been sent. As to the second portion of the question, I shall arrange to have a full reply prepared and supplied to the honorable member.
– Has the Treasurer read the press statement that assistance given by the United States of America to Great Britain under the lend-lease agreement is to be curtailed by 50 per cent., and that the assistance rendered to other countries is to be even more drastically reduced ? If there is any truth in this statement, what will be the effect of the decision on Australia, and what is the position with regard to the lend-lease problem in America?
– I have not read the statement mentioned by the’ honorable member. I understand that owing to the termination of the war in Europe, the supplies necessary for the purposes of actual warfare will grow less, and therefore there should naturally be some curtailment of the shipments. During the last twelve months or more, some tightening up of the supplies available to Australia under the agreement has occurred. That may not be due to unwillingness on the part of the American authorities to meet ordinary demands, but because so many requests are made for goods from other quarters. It may not be possible to comply with all of the requests made by Australia because the stocks in the United States of America have been to some degree reduced. I shall endeavour to find out exactly how Australia will be affected.
– by leave - Some time ago, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question in this House about the transport of onions from Mount Gambier, in South Australia, to New South Wales. Apparently, he returned to the matter later, and spoke upon it at greater length on the motion for the adjournment of the House, because the following report of his remarks appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 5th May last: -
Mr. Archie Cameron (Lib., S.A.) said in the House of Representatives to-day that the Transport Department had allowed” 480 tons of flour to be sent from Victoria to Mount Gambier. (but had refused a permit to send from the Mount Gambier district 130 tons of onions, which had been sold in New South Wales. He added: “If New South Wales goes short of onions, you must blame the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) “.
The application for the transport of onions from Mount Gambier was given prompt attention, in accordance with a request from the Superintendent of Stores and Transport, Commonwealth Food Control, dated the 17th April, that arrangements be made to lift 600 tons of onions from Mount Gambier for service requirements. In accordance with this request, arrangements were made with the Victorian Railways Department to provide the necessary transport facilities for the onions to be moved at the rate of approximately 100 tons a week, which meets the requirement of Food Control. The movement of the onions began on the 17th April, 1945. This proves conclusively that, as usual, the statement of the honorable member for Barker was completely inaccurate.
- by leave - The facts are that a contract was entered into by a private grower in the Mount Gambier district to sell 130 tons of onions in New South Wales, and those onions have not yet been transported. An officer of the Department of Agriculture was sent to Mount Gambier to try to clean the matter up. As a result, 600 tons of onions were bought at Mount Gambier at about £1 a ton more than the market value in order to get over the difficulty created by the refusal to transport the consignment of 130 tons grown by a man named Rudolf under contract for sale inSydmey. This is not the first time that I have had occasion to refer to the refusal to provide transport. There was also the potato case, and the hay case at Hamilton, and the famous case of John Phelan’s greyhound dog which the Minister for Transport would not allow to be taken to Orange.
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen - Quotas for Small Businesses.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the over-subscribing of the recent Victory Loan will help towards financing the soldier settlement scheme? Can he say when it will be possible to make a beginning with the scheme?
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has explained that soldier settlement is a matter for agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. Three of the States prefer to act as principals, working in cooperation with the Commonwealth Government, and three have agreed to act as agents for the Commonwealth. In each case the Commonwealth will accept certain financial responsibilities. It will be necessary to have two forms of agreement - one for the States, which will act as principals, and another for the agent States. Agreements have been prepared, and they are now being examined by Commonwealth and State officials. I had hopedthat during thepresent sittings it would be possible to present the relevant legislation to the Parliament, and as the session seems likely to be protracted perhaps that can be done. When I held the portfolio of Minister for Post-war Reconstruction I was in close contact with the States in connexion with the resumption of properties for this purpose, and I understand that the present Minister has continued such consultations. The most that I can say at the moment is that we are endeavouring to have the agreements completed as expeditiously as possible. In New South Wales inquiries have already been invited from persons who wish to take advantage of the scheme. I shall ascertain the exact position and let the honorable member have a statement later.
– During the last twelve months there have been discharged from the services considerable numbers of men whobefore their enlistment had their own small businesses. When, after their discharge, they sought to resume their business they have found that, owing to the operation of the National Security legislation and of the quota system since introduced, they are unable to obtain goods with which to carry on. As this matter concerns more than one government department, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange for such men to be placed on at least the same footing as others in similar businesses who carried on at home while their fellows were absent serving their country?
– I am able to appreciate some of the difficulties surrounding this matter, and the natural desire of the men concerned to re-establish themselves in the kind of business in which they were engaged before the war. Sometimes, applications are received from returned men who desire to’ start businesses different from those which they conducted before the war. As such applications may affect the distribution of rationed goods, it is not always possible for the authorities to grant them. However, I take it that the honorable member is asking that if a man was conducting a certain kind of business before the war, and wishes to resume that business after his discharge, either in the same locality or in some other, he should be allowed to do so. I shall have the matter examined by the authorities, and a full statement will be made as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen a statement by Mr. Turner, the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Queensland, in Saturday’s Courier Mail that the Kenmore Tuberculosis Chalet for soldiers will probably be completed early next month? In view of the Minister’s statement to the House on the 4th May that he had been assured that the work was to have been completed by the 30th April, but that there had been a delay of ten days, can he now give to the House any reliable information as to when the chalet will be opened?
– When the honorable member first raised this question I said that the matter was in the hands of the Works Department which had advised that the sanatorium would be completed by the 30th April. At a later date I said that I had been advised that there had been a delay of about ten days. I now understand that the hospital will be completed about the 12th June. Arrangements for staffing the hospital are being made, and it is hoped that it will be ready for occupation about the date mentioned.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister noticed that, immediately following V-E Day, the British Government took steps to repeal a number of national security regulations, thereby lifting restrictions that had ‘been placed on the people of Great Britain, particularly regulations relating to the liberty of the subject, and that the Government of the United -States of America had acted in a similar way? Although the war position in Australia is different, will the Minister indicate that national security regulations will be examined with a view to the repeal of some of them, and the appointment of some body to keep the situation constantly under observation, with a view to lifting the restrictions progressively as the war in the Pacific recedes from the shores of Australia? ,
– Some time ago the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) appointed a committee, of which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) is chairman, to study National Security regulations and recommend any alterations considered desirable. Apart from that action, the question of relaxing or repealing certain regulations is now under review. I do not wish my statement to be taken as an intimation that a wholesale repeal of regulations will take place, but, I assure the honorable member that the Government will be glad to ease the restrictions as quickly as possible. It has no pleasure in imposing regulations, or in having to police them.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consult with the Ministers concerned regarding the supply of machinery to discharged servicemen who wish to engage again in rural pursuits? I have received a number of complaints from men who handed over tractors to the Government, or whose tractors were acquired by the Government, that it is almost impossible to get a tractor or other agricultural implement with which to engage in rural production. I ask him to take up this matter with the appropriate Ministers with a view to ensuring that these men shall get a fair deal. Also will the Government review the position of primary industries as regards the supply of tyres, petrol, trucks, farm machinery and equipment, and essential spare parts, with a view to making available supplies of those items to those who need them, and to placing food-producing industries on a footing which, will enable them to meet post-war demands?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. The honorable member spoke of giving a fair deal to those engaged in primary production. I hope that the Government will always do that, although it may not be possible to comply with all the requests that are received. I shall ask the Ministers concerned to do their best to meet the wishes of the honorable member. As to the second portion of his question, I shall arrange to have the matter examined. I think that the honorable member mentioned , that his question related to the post-w.a.r period as well as to the period of the war.
– That is so.
– I shall have that matter examined also.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say when, we can expect to have a report from Professor Giblin in regard to the price of milk?
– I am unable to give the exact date, but I understand that the report will be available shortly. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know the result.
– I was under the impression that service pensions rise and fall pari passu with invalid and oldage pensions, but I am informed that that is not the case. Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the House as to the amount of service pension now paid; and if it is not adjusted to the level of invalid and old-age pensions, will he take steps to amend the law to bring them into line.
– The service pension rate is calculated and fixed on the same basis as the invalid and old-age pension.
– Some weeks ago I brought to the notice of the Minister for Munitions the acute shortage in Queensland of -J-in. and $-in. galvanized piping. On his return to Brisbane this week, the secretary of the Master Plumbers Association said that Queensland was 4,000,000 feet short of its quota of this piping. If that statement is correct will the Minister ensure the adjustment of the position as soon as possible ?
– I have not been able to obtain a clear indication of whether it is true that the shortage is as great as has been said. There is a grievous shortage, not only in Brisbane, but all over Australia, of all forms of water piping because of the ‘tremendous demands of the armed services, but I am making every effort to relieve the position in Queensland. One of the difficulties is the provision of shipping to transfer the piping from -Sydney and Newcastle to Brisbane.
– London newspapers which have arrived in Australia report the activity of the Premier of Queensland in advocating migration from the United Kingdom to Australia. Has this Government devised a policy whereby suitable British migrants may be attracted to Australia? Has it conferred with the States in order to obtain their co-operation, particularly in the matter of settlement of migrants on the land? In view of the activity of the Premier of Queensland in this matter, when does the Commonwealth propose to enter the field? When may we expect a statement setting out this Government’s policy?
– I have not seen any newspaper reports of activity by the Premier of Queensland in the direction of attracting migrants to Australia, but I recall an earlier question on the subject. The Government has set up a special sub-committee to deal with migration. I understand that its report will be available at a reasonably early date. The Prime Minister promised to consider certain representations on this matter made by the Leader of the Australian Country party, but owing to his illness, I have not been able to learn exactly what he has in mind. I shall do so as soon as possible. I hope that a further statement will be made soon.
– In the midday news session, it was reported that the Deputy Prime Minister, in an address to Californian business-men, had said that the Commonwealth Government did not want to hamper private enterprise and would encourage it. I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether that means that the Government has abandoned its policy of socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, or whether there is a policy for home consumption and another for export? May. we now expect that the bill to nationalize the interstate airlines will not come before the House?
– The Government’s attitude towards private enterprise was stated by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government at the Canberra conference held with the manufacturers. I shall have a copy of his statement sent to the honorable gentleman.
– You cannot expect the Deputy Prime Minister to say the same thing every time.
– Well, it is only what other people say he said. The latter part of .the honorable gentleman’s question was not relevant, but I assure him that there is no doubt that legislation regarding the interstate airlines will be brought before the House.
Employment of Women - Alleged Ministerial Interference with Judiciary.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service, but before doing so I desire to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a matter of privilege. Yesterday I asked the Minister a series of questions. He concluded his reply by saying that if I placed my questions on the notice-paper he would supply a full and detailed answer. That is recorded in my Hansard proof. The questions- were placed on the notice-paper in precisely the same form as T had asked them. I have received the following answer : “ 1. No ; 2. No; 3. No; 4. No; 5. I have nothing to add to the. reply made yesterday to the question asked without notice by the honorable member “. In view of the fact that the Minister told me that if my questions were placed on the notice.paper he would give me a full and detailed reply to them, I should like to know whether a matter of privilege does not arise.
– A matter of privilege cannot possibly arise from answering or failing to answer a question. I have pointed out on numerous occasions that it is the right of an honorable member to ask a question, with or without notice, and that the Minister has the right to reply or refuse to reply.
– He promised a full and detailed reply.
– It is a matter not of what is promised, but of .what is accomplished. The point is that if the Minister, even if he promises a detailed reply, fails to reply, no matter of privilege or rights is involved.
– I ask that further questions be put on the notice-paper.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, before raising the matter of privilege, I indicated my desire to ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– The practice of the House is that when the Minister in charge of the House indicates that no further questions without notice will be answered, that is the end of the matter, regardless of the intentions of honorable gentlemen.
Debate resumed from the 15th May (vide page 1731), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In this bill the Government has submitted an effective plan ro deal with one of the outstanding problems of the moment. The rehabilitation of ex-service personnel is a national problem, and honorable members should approach it in a non-party spirit. All of us agree that we have been able to prosecute the war so successfully, largely because all parties have placed national duty above party political considerations. The problem of the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel after this war should be dealt with in the same spirit. If that were clone this measure could be debated without heat, and we could hope to evolve an almost perfect measure. However, in the course of the debate, honorable members opposite have displayed an increasing tendency to approach this matter from a party political viewpoint. Apparently, they are out to make party political capital. That approach is entirely wrong. Certain provisions for preference of employment to ex-service personnel have been on the statute-book for many years. “We know how ineffective that legislation has proved. It will not be of real value to ex-service personnel of this war. Experience demands that we now tackle this problem from an entirely new viewpoint. We must ignore the old catch cries. Preference to ex-service personnel has been in operation in the Commonwealth Public Service for more than twenty years. Even in that limited sphere the preference hitherto provided has failed dismally. At the same time, no provision was made for preference to returned men in private employment. Only a very small percentage of returned mcn of the last war derived any benefit under that legislation. It should be unnecessary to repeat that fact, but I do so in view of the trend of the speeches of honorable members opposite. In addition, preference to ex-service personnel of the last war was made the football of party politics. Parties represented by honorable members opposite succeeded in winning elections on that issue. But the Labour party has maintained an honest approach to the problem of rehabilitating our ex-service personnel, and has always refused to make spurious promises to returned men in order to catch their votes. It has been said in this debate that preference in employment for ex-service personnel is a great, principle. Whether that be so or not, the fact remains that the preference given to returned men of the last war has not been of benefit to the great majority of them. Therefore, it should be abandoned absolutely. Even those returned men, who under that limited form of preference gained appointment; to the Public Service, did not receive the benefits to which they were entitled. About 1920 an examination, confined to ex-service personnel, was held for appointment to the Third Division of the Public Service. Although the Commonwealth Public Service Act provides that applicants for appointment to that division shall have a standard of education equal to that of the Leaving Certificate, the government of the day, in order to overcome the weaknesses inherent in its form of preference, made that examination as easy as possible. Indeed, the standard of the papers set was approximately that of the merit certificate, or the eighth primary grade. Not only was the examination reduced to that standard ; it was also provided that a 25 per cent, marking would constitute a pass in . each subject. In such circumstances, it was not surprising that over 500 soldiers in Victoria alone passed that examination, and thus qualified for appointment to the Third Division; but the result was that for the next eleven years all vacancies occurring in that division were filled by returned soldiers. It will be said that those soldiers were given preference. However, the preference did not prove so valuable as one might infer at first sight. Whilst the educational standard of some of those soldiers was equal to that of the leaving certificate, the big majority of the successful candidates at that examination found that they were not properly equipped to fill the posts to which they were appointed. Consequently, they stayed on the bottom rung of the service ladder, and the efficiency of the service as a whole suffered to such a degree that towards the end of last year the ‘Chairman of the Public Service Board declared that the board was experiencing great difficulty in finding suitable men within the service with the requisite qualifications for appointment as heads of departments and sub-departments. He explained that one of the chief reasons for that state of affairs was that, under the preference provisions, so many returned men had been appointed to the service, when their standard of education was not sufficiently high to enable them to qualify in due course for promotion. Had this problem been approached in 1920 along the lines proposed under this measure all ex-service personnel of the last war would have gained real benefit. All of them would have been properly trained to enable them to carry out efficiently the duties of the posts to which they were appointed. It is not sufficient merely to put a returned man in a job. It is equally essential to train him to fill that job efficiently. Certain advantages which this bill will confer upon ex-servicemen, are already available. For example, educational facilities are now being provided to enable service personnel, while they are still in the fighting forces, to fit them selves for civil jobs. In addition, provision is made for them to receive, after demobilization, technical training and even a university education. When the soldier has to compete with the civil population for employment, he will be trained to the standard required to enable him to hold a suitable position. Possessing the necessary qualifications, he will not be obliged to go cap in hand to employers and ask for preference, because he will be competent to stand on his own feet. Generally speaking, the Australian serviceman prefers to do so. He does not ask for special favours, which are denied to other sections of the community. During my life, I have had a good deal of experience in the industrial movement of Australia. I have occupied various positions in unions, and have represented one particular union at many conferences. My experience has been that always a fair sprinkling of exservicemen is to be found among the delegates, and I have noticed over the years that the average returned soldier is still a worker. Reference was made to the fact that 85 per cent, of the men in the forces were da-awn from the working class. When they are demobilized, they will still be workers. The vast majority of them were members of unions before they entered the services, and they will be members of unions when they resume civil life. Like the men who fought in the last war, they will take an interest in union affairs and share in the control of their industrial organizations. They will be quite prepared to accept the same conditions as those under which their fellow workers are employed. The average Australian does not demand preference over his mates, but desires to make his way on his own ability. The vast majority of those in uniform are average Australians, and do not ask for special consideration or concessions. What they do ask for is that they shall be given a fair opportunity when they return to civil life. What will be the position which this Parliament must face ? After the war, nearly 1,000,000 persons will be demobilized from the forces, and between 600,000 and 700,000 civilians will have to be diverted from munitions establishments to the production of peace-time requirements. If we are to tackle that tremendous problem successfully, we must adopt a national outlook, and firmly suppress any thought of gaining political advantage by making vague promises to any particular section of. the community. Preference to ex-servicemen has been advocated by members of the Opposition, in season and out of season, for the sole purpose of gaining political advantage for their own party.
– That statement is very unfair.
– But it is true. The object of honorable members opposite is to drive a wedge between two sections of the workers’, in the hope that they will be able to divide the workers and become the government of this country. That has been their purpose since the principle of preference arose after the last war; but they have never at any time been honest enough to endeavour properly to rehabilitate the ex-serviceman. I have already cited an instance of how preference functioned in practice. After the last war, only a small percentage of ex-servicemen derived any advantage from it. Indeed, I know of only one other instance of the granting of preference to ex-servicemen as the result of legislation, and that occurred during the financial depression in Victoria. On the instructions of the State Government, unemployed ex-servicemen who were receiving the dole were given preference in employment to make lawns around the Shrine of Remembrance; they worked three or four days a week on dole wages.
Although they received preferential treatment, they were not paid the basic wage.
After this war, entirely different treatment should be given to ex-servicemen. They should not be made the playthings of any political party, but should be dealt with fairly, as Australians. In order to treat them justly, we can adopt only one course. The cries and howls about preference to ex-servicemen, which honorable members opposite utter, will not solve the problem. Many young men have already served in the forces for five and a half years. Some, who enlisted early in the war, had previously been unemployed for a period. Some were called up for military service on attaining the age of eighteen years, and had never been in a civil job. Others held junior positions of various kinds, and had never learned a trade. As the result of their war service, they have lost six years in which they might have been gaining experience of civil employment, and they must be adequately trained for civil jobs as a part of their rehabilitation. While they are being so trained, the expense of .maintaining them must be borne by the Commonwealth. When their training has been completed, they should be able to take their place in the industrial world as efficiently as other workers who did not don a uniform. If that system be adopted, not one serviceman in 10,000 will come, cap in hand, asking for any kind of preference over his fellow men.
– The ex-serviceman does not go cap in hand to any one.
– Anti-Labour governments, in which the honorable member was a Minister, made them go cap in hand, and practically crawling on their knees to ask for the wherewithal to purchase a meal, because they were starving. Our duty is to. ensure that those conditions shall not recur, and as a safeguard, we must fit ex-servicemen, by proper training, for civil occupations, and maintain them until they are able to earn their own living. Their training must make them as efficient a civilian worker as they would have been if they had not worn a uniform.. Until we can provide them with jobs they must he .a charge on the. community. They should not be given a miserable dole, or allowed to live in poverty and destitution. Let them be maintained in circumstances befitting an Australian citizen who has risked his life in the service of this country. Under the provisions of this bill, the Government will be able to do that. Honorable members opposite have criticized the Government’s proposal to limit the operation of preference to * period of seven Years
– Preference to unionists?
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has howled against preference to unionists for many years. Had he been forced to take his place in the industrial world, and to work for his living in competition with other workers, he too would be crying out for preference.
– I have had to work.
– Yes, but the honorable member has not had to depend upon the good graces of an employer to keep his job. Had he had some experience of that type of work, it would have done him a world of good. He would have realized what the trials and troubles of a worker are and why it is necessary for workers to band together in strong organizations. In that way, his education has been sadly neglected. I have had to work for a boss, and I know what the worker has to face. He is engaged in a ceaseless fight to maintain even a meagre standard of living for himself and his family. That fight, continues from the start of his industrial life to the end.
– Is that the cause of the strike between the two ship-building unions at present?
– That matter has no relation to preference to unionists. Of industrial matters the honorable member is entirely ignorant. A little experience of real industrial life would alter his outlook considerably.
This measure includes a provision for the granting of preference to returned soldiers, but because the entire measure does not deal with that subject, some of the Opposition assert that the Government is trying to. do something unfair to our ex-servicemen.. Honorable members opposite fear that their war cry will be lost, and, that they will not be able to stampede a section, of ex-servicemen into making trouble with the workers and so causing a swing against Labour at the next elections. I believe that the seven years’ limitation is just. During that time, they will be given specialized training to fit them for civil employment. When they become 40 per cent, effective at a trade or calling, they will be absorbed into industry, and the Government will make up the difference between the wage which they receive, and the full award rate. I believe that seven years will be quite long enough, and that servicemen generally will be quite satisfied with that period. For the information of honorable members, I quote a report which appeared in the Melbourne Herald to-day - Seven Year Soldier Preference Satisfies.
Most Australians approve the Federal Government’s decision to give servicemen preference in employment for seven years after the war, a Gallup Poll just completed shows.
This is the question asked by Gallup Poll interviewers. “ What do you think of the plan to give servicemen first preference for jobs for seven years after the war?”
The vote shows that at least two out of three people approve the plan.
Previous Gallup Polls on preference for servicemen showed these figures -
The swing shown in the survey in December, 1944, was toward a limited preference of between five and ten years - the Government has compromised with seven.
Incidentally, the Herald claims that these figures are reliable, as were the Gallup Poll figures relating to the referendum. In view of the definite swing indicated by these polls, I suggest to honorable members opposite that they should have their ears a little closer to the ground.
– Were these polls taken among ex-servicemen?
– No, Australians generally.
– Did not the honorable member, when he was first elected to Parliament, say that he opposed preference to returned soldiers ?
– No. At the moment I am speaking of this bill. I have my own views about preference, and I have held these views all along. The returned soldier preference legislation brought into operation after the last war was a snare and a delusion.
– The honorable member does not know very much about it.
– For years the honorable member for Wentworth has been only a parasite on the backs of returned soldiers, but I am sure that they will soon shake him off, -perhaps with the assistance of insecticide. When the honorable member, was «a Cabinet Minister he did not do anything to assist returned soldiers of the last war. That is what annoys me; he has had the opportunities to be of some assistance, but has ignored them. We have heard speech after speech from honorable members opposite demanding that the Government should do this or that for returned soldiers. There has been a constant clamour for the introduction of various kinds of preference. Each time I hear these outbursts, I think (back over a not very long period, and recall that during almost the whole interval .between the two wars, anti-Labour governments were in charge of the administration of this country.
– And it will not be long before an anti-labour government is back in office.
– Then God help the soldiers! Despite the fact that governments formed by the parties to which honorable members opposite belong were in office almost continuously, between the two wars, they did little more than use the cause of the returned soldiers for electioneering purposes, time after time. They talked loudly about preference to returned soldiers, but did not at any time endeavour to make that preference a real thing. To-day honorable members opposite are damning a bill which ‘proposes to give to the ex-servicemen of this country justice and a fair deal - justice which anti-Labour governments failed to extend to returned soldiers of the last war. In the past honorable members opposite have merely mouthed platitudes, and told the people of this country what they intended to do for the returned soldiers. For years they used the ex-servicemen for their own political ends, but made no genuine attempt to assist them.
– After the last war £300,000,000 was spent on returned soldiers.
– When this measure is in operation, I hope that many hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent on ex-servicemen of this war. Yesterday I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) say that he was in favour of spending large sums of money on returned soldiers, and also of retaining the -present high income tax rates to raise that money.
– I said, “ If necessary “.
– It will be necessary. As long as this Government is in office it will be willing to raise money for this purpose and to spend it. This is no mere empty promise, nor shall we be content to say that half a loaf is better than no bread at all. We are determined to ensure that members of the fighting forces shall not suffer any disability as the result of their participation in this war.
Objections have been raised to this measure because it provides for preferential treatment for certain civilians. That provision has been seized upon by the Opposition in an attempt to drive a wedge between the civilian and the soldier. We must remember that in the course of the war the Government has said to certain individuals, “You will go into uniform.” and to others, “You will stay out of uniform “. It has directed people to the munitions factories and workshops, and to the farms. Irrespective of their feelings, these men had to go where they were sent. They came from all sorts of occupations to work in war industries for the duration of the war, not because they wanted to do so but because they were told to do so. They must be trained for other occupations in time of peace because, when the war ends, we shall discontinue the bulk of our war industries. Other men, such as shop assistants and hairdressers, were taken from their jobs and transported to the Northern Territory to do essential war work. Many of them were over military age, and some had served in the war of 1914-18. They went where they were sent at the risk of their lives, and some of them were killed. We must find new jobs for them. To illustrate my point I refer to the case of a group of men employed by the Postal Department. They are all submarine cable workers who go to sea in a ship called the Mernoo, which has a maximum speed of S knots. Nearly all of these men are of military age, and every one of them has endeavoured on numerous occasions to enlist in one or other of the fighting services, but they have been refused permission to enlist on account of the nature of their work. They were told, “ You have an essential war job to do, and you must do it “. It was necessary to the war effort for that old cable ship to be sent into dangerous waters. The men had to lay cables between Thursday Island and Port Moresby, and between various islands in New Britain and neighbouring territories. While they were engaged in laying cables or repairing faults in cables, their ship was often anchored in enemy waters for as long as 4S hours at a time, and, whereas ‘ other ships were blacked out at night, the Mernoo was ablaze with lights so that the men could work. The ship was a special target and it attracted the enemy. It was bombed on a number of occasions, and attempts were made to torpedo it. These cable-layers have repeatedly taken the risks to which servicemen are exposed, but they are not treated as servicemen. When the ship has called at Australian ports they have been insulted ‘by the local population because they have not worn uniforms.
– Anc! they have been given white feathers.
– That is true. Furthermore, at Townsville and at other places on the coast they have been refused meals and hotel accommodation; on occasions some of them have slept under trees in public parks. These men would prefer to be in uniform, but the Government has compelled them to remain in their civil occupations. Are they not entitled to the same consideration as ex-servicemen? If not, I should like to know the reason why. I shall give a further illustration of my point. On the Mernoo there is an engineer in charge of cable-laying who is also a member of the staff of the Postal Department. He took all the risks that I have mentioned, and also, on one occasion, he was taken off the Mernoo in order to do a land job in a forward . operational area in New Guinea. That job took two or three months to complete. He did the work as a civilian, although the men working for him were in uniform. Another engineer employed by the Postal Department, who had been anxious to enlist in one of the services, was sent to New Guinea at about the same time to do a similar job under similar conditions. Because he was sent from Melbourne and not from the cable ship, he was enlisted in the Army for the purpose and given the rank of captain. He completed the job in about three or four months and returned to Melbourne, where his appointment to the Army was terminated and he returned to his former status. That man is now a returned soldier and entitled to all privileges as such, but the risks which he took were not one-fourth so great as the risks which the other engineer has taken as a civilian. The instances I have mentioned show why provision must be made for civilians in our rehabilitation scheme. We must realize that this is the biggest task that lies ahead of Australia. We must not only rehabilitate service men and women, but also transfer to peace employment 600,000 or 700,000 men and women engaged on war jobs. We must place these people in productive occupations if Australia is to progress after the war. We shall not solve our post-war problems if we say, “ Because you were ordered into uniform and he was ordered to remain in civilian clothes, we shall give you a good joh and leave him on the dole”. That would make the last position much worse than the first. There are 1,500,000 Australians in special war-time jobs. They must be placed in peace-time employment irrespective of whether they wore uniform or not. All are Australians, and we must look after them. It is the task of this Parliament to -ensure that they shall be employed under reasonable conditions, and unless we tackle this problem on an Australian basis and leave out all party political cries for preference to one section over another section-
– Leave out preference to unionists. That is a party cry.
– I know that the honorable member would like to do that. I also know what he did in connexion with some returned soldiers when he was Postmaster-General. Although I was not a returned soldier, I came to Canberra .as a member of a deputation which waited on the honorable gentleman in his capacity as Postmaster-General to plead with him to withdraw notices of dismissal which had been served on between 200 and 300 returned soldier temporary linemen employed by the Postal Department. In spite of the fact that he professes to be a confirmed believer in preference to returned soldiers, we had to plead with him to withdraw notices of dismissal which had been served on returned soldiers employed by the Postal Department in Victoria. Fortunately, our appeals to the honorable gentleman were successful and the notices were withdrawn. But for the efforts of our union and the fact that preference to unionists was then observed in a limited measure in the Commonwealth Public Service, those men would have been walking the streets looking for a meal at Christmas, 1938.
– They were made permanent employees.
– Yes, but the union had to fight their case. They were made permanent employees of the department only after the union of which they were members had fought on their behalf for about ten years. Even though a large number of members of the union were cot returned soldiers, they fought strongly for returned soldiers. They had a long and hard struggle to obtain a hearing from an anti-Labour government. I do not want that sort of thing to happen again.
– That matter was taken up by others, too.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman. But I know who bore the brunt of the fight for many years. I was in the forefront .of it throughout, and know what happened under the spurious preference legislation then in existence. Because -of that knowledge, I demand that something better shall be provided for ex-servicemen of this war. The existing legislation is of no value either to those who are exservicemen or to those who are not. This bill, on the contrary, makes provision for a scheme whereby the problem can be solved, and if it be given effect the problem will be solved without setting man against man, father against son, and brother against brother, as has occurred under the preference proposals that have always been advocated by members of the Opposition. I am pleased that there is in office a Government which is prepared to deal justly by the whole of the workers of the Commonwealth, be they servicemen or non-servicemen. With the implementation of this scheme, the old cry of preference to ex-servicemen will soon be forgotten, and an ex-serviceman will be able to work alongside his fellow man who had not been in uniform, under proper conditions and at reasonable rates of pay in a job which will satisfy his desires.
.- It is to be regretted that the debate on this important bill has descended to a party political level.
– Who is responsible for that?
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), as a newcomer to this House, cannot be expected to know the history of the matters about which he speaks. Nor is he privileged to be an ex-serviceman. Therefore, he cannot understand many of the facets of comradeship which are understood by other honorable members on both sides of the chamber. That is not a personal, but merely a general observation. I quote from Vol. 123 of the Parliamentary Debates of the 1st May, 1930, at page 1333 -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the “ Preference to Returned Soldiers “ clause in Works and Railways contracts had been deleted or amended, and whether a clause of instruction relating to the supply of labour from the Trades Hall had been substituted therefor?
The Prime Minister of the day, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) replied -
In view of the distress through widespread unemployment the question of distribution of labour has given the Government serious concern. The final instructions issued to the Government are as follows: -
In carrying out the work under this contract preference shall be given - other things being equal - firstly to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service who are members of trades unions, and, secondly, to members of trade unions.
I quote that, merely as a matter of history. The result of- that action of the Government was a motion for the adjournment of the House, and* the threat of a motion of censure on the Government. The Returned Sailors, and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, as it then was, supported to a man the action of the then Opposition, and the Government backed away from what was an infamous thing. It took this action surreptitiously, by a covert instruction to the departments. Honorable members who are acquainted with the facts know that repatriation and preference to ex-servicemen began in 1915 with acts that were supported, and were improved from time to time, by Nationalist and United Australia party Governments.
– None of them was as good as this measure.
– I shall express my opinion of this measure as I proceed. The first departure from the practice was made by that instruction The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) spoke last night of exservicemen who had been destitute and on the dole. Such talk is nauseating. It has also been said that they had to go “ cap in hand “ to obtain employment. They have too much pride to go “cap in hand “ to anybody. If any of them were thrown on the scrap heap, the responsibility lay with the Government of the day which withdrew the preference that existed in the Commonwealth Public Service, by means of a secret instruction which affected thousands of men, including the very linemen whose cause the honorable member for Bourke claims to have advocated. The honorable member “ patted himself on the back “, and swelled with pride because of the part which, according to him, he played in a fight on behalf of ex-servicemen, yet he made no protest on that occasion, Many new-comers to this Parliament have repeated so “often stories similar to that told by the honorable member that they have come to believe that they state the position correctly. I have given the facts, which show that the only Government that interfered with the measure of preference enjoyed by ex-servicemen over the years was the Scullin Government.
This bill is very important, and deserves earnest consideration. In my opinion, it is vital to the future of Australia, as it concerns the flower of a generation of our people. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said, in his second-reading speech, that the measure is designed primarily to give further legislative expression to our sense of obligation to our fighting forces and to the auxiliaries, for the part which they have played in this most fateful of wars. If it were to rehabilitate exservicemen, and machinery existed for carrying that out, we could applaud it and make little except favorable comment upon it. But I believe that it has many defects. It is comprehensive in its longterm plans covering pensions, medical care, housing, and land settlement under various departments. On the transitional side, it includes provision for reinstatement in employment, re-establishment, loans and allowances. The problem on the service side is a huge one, involving the absorption into civil capacities of approximately 800,000 men and women, together with the transfer of possibly 600,000 civilians to their normal activities. Of course, the major proportion of those will be self-adjusting; they will achieve their own rehabilitation, because that is a way which Australians have - if they can avoid governmental assistance, they do so. But there is a time factor, and I do not know to what degree the Minister has taken that into account. With the end of hostilities in Europe, demobilization at the end of the next phases - the war with Japan - will occupy only a year or eighteen months. Can the Government cope with that huge problem, in view of the little in the way of rehabilitation which it can show to - date?
– This Government can cope with anything.
– Especially the Minister.
– If that is not merely an overflow of the Minister’s ego, and if he believes that he has correctly stated the position, then God help the servicemen ! The Minister has a lot to learn. I intend to submit some proposals. I hope that he will take them into account, and consult his colleagues in regard to them. If this measure had been designed merely for the serviceman, we could believe that it does what he says. He has claimed that it is a serviceman’s charter of re-establishment. Is it? If it is, why has the problem of the serviceman been confused with that of the civilian? Why is there a grandiose scheme to organize the return of all the auxiliaries to civil life - the labour corps, the Civil Constructional Corps, the munitions workers, and the other civilians who have been displaced from their ordinary occupations by the war?
– Where does the honorable member find mention of them in the bill ?
– I presume that a lot of them are covered by the term “ auxiliaries “. Which of them are not?
– I am asking the honora’ble gentleman to name them.
– The Minister, who claims to know everything, cannot answer that question.
– The honorable gentleman cannot point to where they are mentioned in the bill.
– There is a reference to them in the Minister’s second-reading speech. The honorable gentleman said on that occasion that this is an expression of our obligation to our fighting forces, and to their auxiliaries. Who are the auxiliaries?
– Is not the nursing service an auxiliary?
– Of course it is! Does the Minister say that the nursing service is the only auxiliary? Of course he does not ! The Minister seems to be doing his best to confuse the public by submitting a comprehensive bill of this description. It is a kind of political curate’s egg that might have been good in parts, but now that it has been thoroughly scrambled it is completely bad. By seeking to deal with the problems of servicemen and civilians in one measure, the Minister has produced a hybrid plan which cannot he effective. I agree that the bill will do some good, because some able men and efficient departments will administer it, but the proposed dual purpose scheme will be of little use to servicemen and will be very expensive to the Commonwealth. 1 presume that the Minister will consider what has been done in the direction of the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel in other dominions. South Africa, for instance, has adopted a generous demobilization scheme with comprehensive and sympathetic plans. Under it, jobs, houses, grants and loans are generously accorded to servicemen and servicewomen. Thousands of positions are being kept open for them in the railways, teaching, and nursing services.
– A similar position obtains in Australia.
– In what departments? Only a few days ago six inspectors were appointed to permanent positions in the Man Power Branch of the Social Services Department, and not one of them was a returned soldier. If this legislation is to be effective, the departmental officers from the Minister downwards should be ex-servicemen. In South Africa, the whole of the directorate charged with the re-establishment work is composed of ex-service men and women specially selected because of their service outlook and their intimate knowledge of service problems. In the Department of Social Service and Demobilization priority is given to ex-service personnel in the matter of home-building, whether the houses are erected by private enterprise or by the Government. Contrast that with the pathetic results obtained in Australia under the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Frost), and the Minister in charge of the bill. How many permits for permission to build have been applied for, and how many have been granted, even in cases where the applicants possess their own land ? If an applicant expected approval within three months, he would be regarded as asking almost for the moon. The Government is building transit stores at Broadmeadows and an Air Force store at Tottenham at a cost of approximately £825,000. That involved the employment of hundreds of bricklayers and carpenters, and the use of materials and man-power which should be employed in the building of homes. The War Service Homes Department has actually built fifteen houses during the war.
– The Opposition did not build any.
– The War Service Homes Department was established by a government formed by the Opposition parties, during whose regime 17,000 homes were erected. I do not claim that the department functioned perfectly. It made many mistakes, but at least it produced homes.
– The honorable member knows the reason why the department cannot build houses at present.
– Yes, but I should not like to hurt the Minister’s feelings by giving it. There is a Commissioner of War Service Homes, six deputy Commissioners, six architects and over 100 employees. I have asked what the department is doing, and I have received a long answer about rent collections and mortgages, but it is not producing houses. 1 was telling the Minister in charge of the bill what South Africa is doing in the matter of the establishment or reestablishment of ex-service personnel in civil life.
– Leave South Africa alone.
– It is a pity that some members of this Parliament do. not look beyond their own backyard. In South Africa, grants up to £250, and loans up to .£1,250, free of interest for the first five years, are made to ex-members of the fighting services. Students at universities receive grants of up to £250 and loans up to £600 free of interest. Compare that with what is proposed by the Labour Government in Australia. The Minister in South Africa, in the course of his statement with regard to the measure adopted in that country, said -
We have set out to provide, as far as possible, a policy of social insurance for those men and women who have fought. Patriotism is above calculated monetary valuations. The Govern ment has sought to translate into reality iti. conception of duty to those who served.
The little dominion of New Zealand has a splendid war record.
– It also has a Labour government.
– Yes, but like the Labour party in Great Britain, and unlike the party in Australia, it has united with other political parties in order to produce a maximum national war effort. In New Zealand there is a Rehabilitation Board which covers all fields. Under a Minister for Rehabilitation there is a director - Lieutenant-Colonel Baker, a man of the highest academic attainments and wilh distinguished war service. Loans granted to ex-servicemen provide for their training, or their settlement on the land, and local repatriation committees are appointed throughout the dominion. In Australia, in what seems to be a veritable planners’ picnic, an effort is made to deal with both service and civilian problems simultaneously, but there is danger of failing in respect of both. In charge of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is the Director-General, Dr. Coombs. I do not question his personal ability as a senior officer in the Public Service, but the first essential of a department of this kind is that it shall be controlled by servicemen. If it is to be the servicemen’s charter it should be run by those who understand servicemen. We should not have a kind of hierarchy of economists, with a maze of officials in the departments below them. The departments which will administer this legislation include Repatriation, War Service _ Homes, Labour and National Service, Post-war Reconstruction and Social Services. The scheme is divided into two main sections, under the direction of the Central Reconstruction Training Committee, and the Reestablishment and Re-employment Committee.
I believe that the bill should he withdrawn and redrafted, so that those proposals which affect servicemen may be covered in a separate measure. As one who has been associated with servicemen for many years, I know that that is the only way in which satisfactory results can be achieved. Another measure dealing with civilian rehabilitation could be introduced later.
– The honorable member i? a pessimist.
– I do not think so. I have had a longer association with servicemen than has the Minister. I have been associated with them for over ten years during the two wars, of which seven years were served overseas. No doubt the Government has the numbers to put the bill through in its present form, but I sincerely hope that these proposals will be considered. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that training was an immensely important part of the Government’s scheme, and he added that more than 1,200 men were taking full-time training and 300 part-time training. That sounds all very well until we. know the totals involved. Over 300,000 persons have been demobilized already. Of these, 2 per cent, have applied for full-time training, and 7 per cent, for part-time training, and on the Minister’s own figures only .4 per cent, of the men discharged have been accepted for full-time training, and only 1 per cent, for part-time training. Only one in 800 is receiving fulltime training, and one in 130 is receiving part-time training. Is that a record of which we can be proud ? In a recent issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph the following paragraph regarding the Trade Unions Convention was published: -
Union delegates criticized a number of aspects of the present scheme, particularly inadequate accommodation for pupils, acute shortages of tools and text-books, and shortage of teachers.
– That is what the Daily Telegraph alleges was said.
– Well, but something like that must have been said.
– The figures which the honorable member has cited, are his own figures, not mine.
– They are taken from the Minister’s own speech. I know the figures, and I know that the Minister skated over the Government’s record of training for ex-servicemen.
– I am not in the habit of skating over things.
– The figures speak for themselves and, as I have said, there is nothing to be proud of in them. After the last war, the Repatriation Department did an infinitely better job. It did train the men, and got them into industry.
I suggest to the Minister that the regulation should be altered which provides that only those who were under 21 when they er listed can receive technical training. This shuts out all those who were victims of the depression.
– For which the Government that the honorable member supported was responsible.
– If the Minister’s mind is not big enough to know that the depression was world-wide, and not the responsibility of any one government, it is a sorrowful thing that this bill should be in his charge. The present position regarding technical training shuts out many worthy young men who are well fitted to receive such training. I exhort the Minister to raise the age to 30, and I assure him that if he does so he will have the support of servicemen’s organizations. In the United States of America, the age is 25, and here, where technical training is not so well advanced, the age might well be 30.
– The honorable member must realize that there has to be a limit.
– Yes, but that is no answer to my suggestion. The Minister, when speaking to this bill, referred to “ challenging opportunities “. I maintain that no such opportunities are provided by this measure. On the contrary, it contains evidence of lack of vision in the planners. Already, 7,000 persons are leaving the services every month. Now that hostilities have ceased in Europe, 13,000 members of aircrews will be returning to Australia. I urge the Government to adopt a generous training scheme, and to extend the opportunity for training to as many as possible.
I suggest that social workers, both medical and others, should be attached to the departments dealing with returned servicemen. It may be that something is being done in this direction already. It is certainly necessary that such social workers should be there to advise servicemen, and to follow up cases. I have in mind several cases in which such assistance is needed. One is that of an airman who was idle for fourteen months after his discharge. He was passed from the Royal Australian Air Force to the Rehabilitation Authorities, thence to Man Power and later to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, who then passed him back again to the Royal Australian Air Force. I know of another case in which a discharged serviceman started with enthusiasm to think of the future but, as the result of delay and prevarication encountered in various departments, gradually lost faith in his own ability, and in that of other people to assist him.
– If the honorable member will supply me with the names of the persons concerned, their cases will be considered.
M.r. WHITE. - I do not intend to give the names, nor the sources of my informa-tion, but the cases are well known in the Minister’s department. A man in a nervous condition hesitates to return to the man-power authorities after having tried several jobs. He loses his confidence, and feels that he is a redundant unit in society. It is necessary to cure him of that feeling. Officials should display an active willingness to help him, not merely show him a list of more or less unskilled jobs, and then push him off. I do not say that all the officials are like that, but there is great scope here for the Minister himself to impress upon his officers the need to deal sympathetically with those men who come before them. There is need for continuous and adequate medical service to men who are discharged unfit from the services. They may be awaiting a decision on a pension claim, or may be told that their claims have been refused. They are probably in an unhappy frame of mind, and their cases should be followed up. A psychiatrist should be attached to the department to advise and treat those who need his help. The Minister should .approach the medical heads of the three services and the British Medical Association for a plan of medical service. The best medical assistance should be obtained to assist the Repatriation Department .and the man-power authorities.
The Repatriation Department, which has done excellent work over the last 25 years, is now to be limited in its functions to matters pertaining to pensions and appeals, and to the treatment of minor complaints. Admittedly, there has been disappointment with the department in recent years, due to a feeling that it has become static. Some time ago, I appeared before an Entitlement
Tribunal on behalf of the widow of a Queensland soldier who had been a prisoner with me, and during the proceedings it became evident to me why so many applications are refused. This lady had been refused a widow’s pension though even the Turks had repatriated her husband when he was desperately ill. I believe that these boards might well be abolished, and the servicemen provided, instead, with easy access to the courts. All the files are there in the department to be used against an applicant who, if he cannot find some one who served in his unit to support him, finds it very difficult to establish his case. I know of another case in which a man died, and his widow was refused a pension on the ground that the death w.as not attributable to war causes, although it was established that he had been brutally treated by his captors while a prisoner of war during the last war and was 100 per cent, pensionable before his death. .When I offered to give what I believed to be relevant evidence, I was told that unless further evidence were brought forward the case would not be re-opened.
– Yet the honorable member’s party voted against the onus being thrown on the department.
– I did not. I was overseas when that matter was dealt with. I have always held that the onus should rest on the department to prove that a man’s disability is not the result of his war service. If a man was fit when he enlisted the onus of proof should rest on the department. That has always been my view. New blood is wanted in the department. If the existing Entitlement and Assessment Tribunals were overhauled, better results would be obtained. I quote from the Catholic Worker the following relevant paragraph, with which I agree: -
Repatriation is not a dole or a pittance to be reluctantly dealt in minimum fashion. It is not a reward. It is the giving of justice to those who have sacrificed their health for the freedom of Australia
The article says more about delays, but I cannot vouch for all the statements. However, out of my own experience, I say that there are anomalies that must be rectified, and a less official and more individual approach must be adopted.
The vocational training system was well carried out, and could have been expanded. I ask the Minister to consider repeating also what was done following the cessation of hostilities in 1918. They were then given three months nonmilitary employment while still overseas - they described it as non-military enjoyment. I asked a question to-day on this subject, and I hope that the matter will be given consideration. I believe that the Government is considering it A period of three months’ leave on full pay would give to men an opportunity to fit into their proper environment and to avail themselves of commercial and educational experience, perhaps not available to them after demobilization.
On the educational side the Government would do well to act generously. There should be no age bar, and educational training should not be restricted too’ much by quotas. A decision should not depend on the occupation followed by a man before he enlisted. A man who was a labourer when he went away might, with training, qualify for a position as an ambassador. I know of one Australian soldier of the last war, a tinsmith’s apprentice, who to-day has reached almost ambassadorial status in the United Kingdom. Another man who is now a prominent member of the British House of Commons and an alderman of the City of London, where he is held in high regard, left Australia as a private in a South Australian battalion. Had he not had the benefit of generous educational facilities when he returned to Australia, he would not have those achievements to his credit. I know of men who have matriculated, but whom the Universities Commission has told that the quota system will not allow them, to continue their studies at the university. We talk a great deal about higher education, but we find only too many instances of men being denied opportunities to fulfil their ambition. Special consideration should be given to prisoners of war. Social service workers, as well as medical workers, should visit them and assist to adjust their personal and family problems. We read only to-day of 300 members of the Royal Air Force who had returned to Great Britain after up to four years in German prisoner- of-war camps. Those men have a lot of leeway to make up, as they have been living on a’ different planet as it were. Some of them might have been in camps where opportunities to study existed, but others probably were employed as slave workers. The latter class should not be subjected to any limitation of time in respect of preference. They may take many years to recover from the privations .to which they have been subjected. These men will be Rip Van Winkles when they return to Australia, and they should not be treated as ordinary troops, and subjected to punishment for trifling misdemeanours. Those who will have to deal with such men should have shared some of their experiences and understood their problems. Men who have lived in a state of total eclipse in prisonerofwar camps, away from all contact with friends, will not easily adjust themselves to a busy world, which may quickly forget the war. During my short term as Minister for Repatriation, I discovered that prisoners of war fared worst under our repatriation system. That was largely because their treatment was based on their medical records. The granting of a pension depends to a great degree on the illnesses recorded in a man’s medical history. A prisoner of war in enemy hands may not be. able to present any medical sheet; cases in which a complete record will be available will be rare indeed. Many men, who applied to me for assistance, knowing that I had shared their experiences, told me that they could not get anywhere with the department, chiefly because there was no record of their medical history to guide departmental officers. In one instance, the authorities wrote to Turkey to try to find out about the treatment given to a soldier fifteen years earlier. Naturally, the former enemy did not criticize its own administration. I ask the Minister to insert in the repatriation legislation a provision that men who have served in a combat area shall be given all the assistance possible, as that is often the best measure of their bona fides. Men serving at head-quarters may be able to present a record of every minor aiment from which they suffered, but not every man who has served in operational areas can do that. I did not know until recently that, although disabled soldiers may obtain temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, they cannot obtain permanent employment. Employment in a temporary capacity does not entitle them to superannuation and other benefits, and,’ therefore, I shall move in committee an amendment that disabled soldiers shall be eligible for permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. I hope that my amendment will receive general support. These men should not be employed only as caretakers or drivers of lifts, but should be entitled to rise to the highest positions in the Public Service.
– Evidently, the honorable member did not know these things when he was a Minister.
– That is so. I only discovered that fact recently. Now that I know them, I shall move in committee to remedy the provision, and I hope that the Minister will support the amendment.
I have drawn attention to what is being done in South Africa, and have shown that in Australia man-power and materials are being wasted in connexion with old projects. Those undertakings should not be proceeded with until people who require houses have been provided with them. It does not matter whether the houses be built by governments or by private enterprise, so long as they are provided. In New Zealand, 50 per cent, of the houses built are allotted to returned servicemen. Our War Service Homes Commission should be more active in providing homes for returned service personnel, and action should be taken to enable war widows to obtain war service homes. That cannot be done to-day. In New Zealand soldiers on furlough and the wives of prisoners of war w ‘i-mi war service homes, whereas in Australia they are not eligible. The Government says that it is going to start building. It had better start soon, or it will be overtaken by the flood.
– I wish the honorable gentleman would make some comments on what this bill does propose for exservicemen.
– I asked the Minister whether the Government would enable disabled soldiers to become permanent members of the Commonwealth Public Service, but he ignored me. In New Zealand, too, returned soldiers desiring to build their own homes are given advances of up to £1,500 at 2 per cent, for the first year, and 3 per cent, thereafter, but in Australia a soldier first has to obtain the consent of the Treasury to buy a piece of land and then register with the War Service Homes Commission; that means inordinate delay, and, even then, he gets nothing. That is typical of the treatment he will get in other branches, too, unless the bill be drastically amended. The Government has announced that it intends to help men to start in business on their own account. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked last week -
How many men discharged from this war, have applied for the maximum of £250 for rehabilitation purposes under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act, and how many have received it?
The answer was -
Two thousand one hundred and ninety four applications for advances for business plant, stock or livestock have been received up to the end of March, 1945, of which number 756 were approved, C42 refused-
What is the state of mind of the 642 who were refused? They have returned after from four to five years of active service to be frustrated. They have to get a permit in order to start business, and, as the Acting Prime Minister said to-day, they cannot get it if the authorities consider sufficient similar enterprises already exist, if they want to sell rationed goods, or if they were not similarly engaged before. What help is there in that? The answer went on - 294 withdrawn and 47 lapsed.
Why could it not be said that 98 per cent, was approved? That would be more suitable and more in keeping with the attitude of every other part of the British Empire; but here, because we have this muddle, this chaotic measure - chaotic because it applies to civilians as well as to soldiers - we are forgetting what is due to the servicemen. For goodness sake, let us separate the problems of the civilian and the soldier. They differ in many regards. As a matter of fact, if a soldier wants to set up in business with :i truck he must first apply for permission to the Directorate of War Organization of Industry, and then to the Commisweal th War Transport Board for permission to buy a truck. If he gets that he must apply for a fuel ration to the Liquid Fuel Control Board. Then he must get permission from the Department of Transport in some States to go about his business.
– ‘Provision for employment of disabled soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service has already been made. The honorable member has not examined the bill.
– The Minister is determined to side-track me. I have examined the bill and permanent employment is not provided. This Government has reluctantly agreed to extend preference in employment to returned soldiers. I say “ reluctantly “ advisedly, because the Minister attended a meeting of his political masters in Melbourne at Easter-time. At that Easter comedy he was attacked for having brought down a measure of preference to returned soldiers. He confessed-
– How does the honorable member know that I confessed anything? It was a private meeting.
– I read it in the Age of the 31st March, and I have never heard the honorable gentleman deny it.
– Does the honorable gentleman vouch for its accuracy?
– The Age gave the story in full. I invite the Minister to laugh off what the Australasian Council of Trade Unions said after the conference.
– The Australasian Council of Trade Unions is a body. It has no voice.
– Has no voice ! It waves the big stick. This is what it said -
Conference regards the Federal Government’s declared intention to introduce preference as a ‘breach of faith with the trade unions and the Labour party-
The Minister’s bosses! - and a betrayal of the thousands of workers who have voluntarily accepted industrial conscription-
How we like that !- and wage pegging, and therefore directs its representatives to strongly oppose the implementation of preference to soldiers.
Hence this milk-and-water measure limiting preference to seven years. Why should it be limited to seven years? Is there a limit to the gratitude that this nation owes to its protectors? Why limit preference to seven years or seventeen years? I direct the attention of honorable members to the attempt of the Government to withdraw the preference to soldiers given by the Public Service Act. As the honorable member for Flinders said, the Government looks on the services of the soldiers as ancient history. The Minister himself put it this way -
After seven years there will be a new generation of workers which will include the sons of servicemen, who should not be handicapped by old history.
Old history! Old history saved us. It recalls Kipling’s lines -
Tommy here and Tommy there, and chuck him out, the brute;
But it is Mr. Thomas Atkins when the guns begin to shoot.
I ask the Minister to remember 1942 when there was great agitation in Australia and when our men were valiantly throwing the enemy back in New Guinea. Would the Minister have said then, “ Limit preference to seven years “ ? He definitely would not. Would he limit preference to men who fought the Battle of Britain?
– Great Britain does not. propose to give any preference.
– That is a fact; it has other plans. But we have given it in the Public Service over the years. The Government is in a quandary.
– Neither does South Africa nor New Zealand give it.
– I have already discussed them. I want to shame the Minister into admitting reluctance.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I ask that the honorable member be given an extension of time.
– No !
– I hope that in justice to the men who fought for us the Government will bring down a true bill for the rehabilitation of servicemen to replace this “ hotch-potch “.
.- My first duty is to commend the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) for his contribution to the debate. He spoke not only as a returned soldier, but also as a soldier settler, and what he said should be food for thought to every honorable member of this House. I listened with great interest to every word uttered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and found that not one proposal emanating from him was not already within the four corners of this hill. The Re-establishment and Employment Bill is the soldier’s charter. It provides that he shall have preference in employment for seven years and other benefits. The civilians who have been brought within its provisions are those whose work has taken them close to the enemy. Principally this measure provides for the welfare of members of the fighting forces, and, therefore, it should be above all party considerations. It affects approximately one-quarter of our adult population - men to whomthe nation owes everything. This measure is the second instalment of the plan which the Government has announced to help these men. The first was its scheme of gratuities, which is estimated to cost approximately £63,000,000 by next June. That expenditure will increase at the rate of £7,000,000 every six months thereafter. This measure covers employment, preference, apprenticeship, vocational training, disabled persons, demobilization, loans, moratoriums and legal aid. The provision with respect to training is one of the main features of the bill. When this scheme is in full operation, it will be an immense enterprise offering opportunities which will be a challenge to both the individual and the community. In view of post-war needs, so many of our people have never been so much in need of vocational, professional and rural training. Never before has the Government organized on such a scale to provide the nation with trained and skilled personnel. Already more than 1,250 ex-service men and women of this war are receiving full-time training, and over 3,000 are receiving part-time training in a wide range of vocational and professional activities. In addition, more than 31,000 members of the fighting forces still on service are taking predischarge training courses. Training for the full range of professions will follow the usual lines, including courses at universities, technical colleges and other educational institutions. Apart from rural professional training, agricultural courses will he closely linked with settlement projects under the servicemen’s settlement scheme. On the industrial side, there will he two methods of training. First, training will be provided in technical schools until the trainee reaches a standard at which he can qualify for 40 per cent, of the minimum award wage payable in the particular calling for which he is being trained. This standard will be assessed by industrial committees which are to be set up under this measure. Training allowances are to be paid up to the time the trainee is placed in employment. As a nation, we owe that much to the men and women who forfeited their chances of training by taking their places in the armed services. In order to assist service men and women in finding appropriate employment, a widely decentralized employment service will be set up by the Government. This service will assist servicemen to become reinstated in their former positions, or to obtain preference. It will assist disabled persons who have received the requisite training to obtain employment, and where necessary it will provide vocational guidance. It will assist in administering the Employment and Sickness Benefits Act, as well as the employment provisions of this measure. This service will be made available to employers and workers alike.
In this measure the Government has endorsed the principle of employment to ex-service men and women on the basis of the services they have rendered in the defence of this country. This preference will operate for seven years after the cessation of hostilities, and will apply lo employment generally, whether it be provided by the Crown or by private employers. Members of the fighting forces of both wars will be entitled to preference, and a person with comparable service may apply to a board to be registered as a person entitled to preference. Preference is to be made available for seven years after the war, because at the end of that period a new generation of workers will appear, many of whom will be the sons and daughters of ex-service personnel. They should not be handicapped by old history. At the end of the seven-year period the community as a whole will be able to review the position, and can -then make clear its wishes with regard to the retention of the scheme. The time limit will enable this to be made a general preference instead of a long-range sham preference of the kind which was provided after the last war. Employers, including the Crown, are required to reinstate in their former employment those who make such application not later than 21 days after their discharge. In this respect, a time limit may be extended where required. Reinstatement rights are kept alive for a service man or woman who enters essential employment after discharge. Reinstatement must be in the same occupation, and under conditions not less favorable than those which would have existed had such persons remained in their former employment. Where two or more ex-service personnel apply for the same job, the person with the longest service in the armed forces will be given priority. Disabled servicemen and other personnel may register voluntarily, and may be given special treatment and training for their particular occupation. They may be given appliances, equipment and surgical aids, and expenses and living allowances. Employers may be required to employ a specified number of disabled persons in proportion to the total number “of employees. This arrangement will not be haphazard. A committee representing all parties interested, including disabled persons, will advise the member with respect to it. The financial provisions designed to help ex-service personnel to set up in business, and to purchase their homes, are another’ very important aspect of the bill which should have the support of all honorable members.
Loans for businesses, including rural pursuits, may be granted to those exservicemen who require financial assistance. To an approved person who desires to begin a small business, a loan ranging from £250 to £500 may be granted, whilst a person who desires to engage in primary production may receive a loan of £1,000. Reasonable time will be allowed for the repayment of those loans. if circumstances arise which make it impossible for the exserviceman to repay the loan, the amount may be written off. These provisions have been based on experiences gained from the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen after the last war, and seek to avoid the tragic mistakes that were then made.
Financial assistance will be given to the States for the purpose of aiding land settlement projects for ex-servicemen, and the Commonwealth Government will enter into agreements with the States for the allocation of homes erected under housing schemes. This allocation will be in addition to the provision of war service homes. Legal aid bureaux will be established to advise ex-service personnel and their female dependants on their problems. An important provision is the moratorium for the members of the forces and their female dependants. The Crown will be bound by these provisions. Where members of the forces, or their female dependants, are liable to pay the principal due under a mortgage or any instalment of the purchase money of land, and that liability arose before the members first became engaged on .war service, the time for payment will be postponed until twelve months after the members cease to be on war service. Legal proceedings to enforce the liability of members of the forces, or their female dependants under contracts entered into before their enlistment, are prohibited. Where a contract has become unduly onerous, the court may prohibit any legal process to enforce liabilities, or adjust the position. Bankruptcy proceedings against members of the forces and their female dependants are prohibited, except by leave of the court. All these provisions are necessary to protect the exserviceman from the hungry sharks that will be awaiting his return. These safeguards will give him time to adjust his affairs.
The bill will enable us to deal with the colossal task of rc-establishment in an efficient and scientific manner. More than 900,000 men and women have served in the forces. In addition to placing them in employment, the Government must bear in mind that the diversion of civilians from munitions establishments to the production of peace-time requirements may involve up to 700,000 persons. The immense task of readjustment has already begun, but. it is estimated that when the war ends, more than 500,000 men and 40,000 women serving in the forces will require rehabilitation In addition, thousands of persons in factories now engaged in the production of arms and munitions, must be re-absorbed in civilian industry. The process of demobilization will occupy about eighteen months from the date of the cessation of hostilities. All those factors have been taken into account in the Government’s plan for post-war reconstruction, and this bill is a major contribution in paving the way for a return to peacetime conditions.
Living in one of the greatest rural areas in Australia, I am gratified to be able to say that this Government is paying particular attention to the problem of repatriating ex-servicemen who desire to settle on the land. My colleagues and I, who represent rural constituencies, are pleased to note that the Government is determined that the tragic mistakes of soldier settlement after the last war. shall not be repeated. After 1918, 37,000 exservicemen were settled on the land under various schemes inaugurated by State governments. Of that number, only 26,000 now remain. Many men who took up land did not have, from the outset, a chance of success. They were placed on land which had been purchased at inflated values, and given the task of pioneering heavily timbered country. Others were placed on land which has since come to be regarded as marginal country. The great majority of those who left their holdings, or were forced off their holdings, could not be said to have been repatriated. When the soldiers returned from the first world war, the desire of the people was to reward them by giving them an opportunity to reestablish themselves in civil life. But many of those ex-servicemen were expected to pioneer country which had no appeal to the great majority of primary producers. In those circumstances, repatriation could be regarded only as a mockery. After the last war, the Commonwealth Government shared with the Stales the cost of soldier settlement, and bore a portion of the losses, but had no voice in determining the schemes upon which the States should embark. On this occasion, the Commonwealth will make a greater financial contribution for soldier settlement, and will see that the States’ plans shall provide that opportunity for success which should be a feature of any settlement scheme. The Commonwealth Government intends to ensure that land purchased shall be suitable for settlement, that it lies in an area enjoying a good rainfall, and that the block shall be ready for production when the ex-serviceman begins his tenancy. In addition, the settler should be given a reasonable equity in his property.
Perhaps the most tragic muddle in the history of soldier settlement occurred in Victoria after the last war, when many ex-servicemen were settled in the northwest Mallee on small areas, and with a low rainfall. Some of the settlers were refused water by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. Those settlers were not placed on suitable land, and were seriously hampered by the refusal of the State to grant to them the necessary facilities. Because of that tragic muddle, Victoria introduced a fiveyear plan. Instead of transferring the soldier settlers to the western district, which enjoys a good rainfall, the then Minister for Lands, Mr. Dunstan, who is now Premier of Victoria, decided to remove some thousands of them from their holdings. Most of these men left the land for good. After years of struggling against almost insurmountable difficulties, and of enduring the greatest hardship, the State paid them £200 to vacate their blocks. They received that sum only after a spirited fight. At first they were offered. £100 to give up the fight to rehabilitate themselves. The great tragedy was that many of these men had given twenty years of their lives in a vain attempt to wrest a living from the land. Some settlers in New South Wales were also compensated by the Government of that State for abandoning their holdings. It can be said, however, that the approach of the New South Wales Government to the problem was more sympathetic and generous. Settlers who were removed from their holdings received compensation totalling £500. It is regrettable that these men were not transferred to other areas. This rehabilitation scheme should provide that the States shall transfer men to a more suitable locality from any area which may prove to be unsuitable. In my own electorate most of the towns are landlocked, notably Holbrook, Harden, Gundagai and Yass. All of these areas are suitable for soldier settlement, and these are the localities in which the men should be established. There are also extensive areas adjacent to the River Murray which, with the extension of water conservation schemes, will provide large tracts of suitable land. I have no doubt whatever that there are similar areas in the electorates of most honorable members who represent rural constituencies. For instance, there are big holdings in the western district of Victoria - one of the best rainfall areas in the State - which could be subdivided for soldier settlement. No doubt, owners of large estates in the better rainfall areas will resist efforts by governments to resume their properties for soldier settlers, but if the State governments are sincere in their desire to cooperate with the Commonwealth in attending to the needs of servicemen who have to be rehabilitated, they will show little reluctance on this occasion to cut up the bigger estates. Associated with any plans for soldier settlement must be a drive for new export markets. Whilst there is a market for all primary products which can be produced during the war, if post-war production is to be increased as the result of soldier settlement, then new markets must be found for the produce of these areas. In view of this important aspect of soldier settlement, I was particularly interested in the statement made to the House last week by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who outlined the Government’s plans for increasing Australia’s export trade. I welcomed the Minister’s statement as further evidence of the Government’s intention to rehabilitate returning servicemen in industry, whether secondary or primary. .
I say, in conclusion, that the Government is exhibiting a sincere desire to provide real opportunities for returning servicemen. It is fitting that it should do so. These opportunities were denied many men who returned from the last war. Preference became a mockery during the years of the depression, because there were thousands fewer jobs than were necessary to provide employment for all. Honorable members will agree that that was so. I have lived in rural areas all my life, and I know that hundreds of thousands of: men, including returned soldiers, were denied their births right as citizens of this country - the right to live and to work. At that time of course, honorable members opposite were in control of the treasury bench. There has been a curious reluctance on the part of the Opposition to accept the policy of “ jobs for all “, as part of our post-war structure. The men now in the services are fighting- for the principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter, the Four Freedoms, one of which is freedom from want. “We must provide the opportunities for servicemen to re-establish themselves in civil life. We must also provide opportunities for all our civil population to enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort and to lead contented laves. If we can do this, we shall have, contributed something to human progress and a better way of life.
.- Before we examine” the terms, of this measure, it is well that we should give some consideration to the real problem involved in the rehabilitation of exservicemen, and the re-absorption into civil occupations of all those who have been engaged in war work. This measure has been described by some rather grandiloquent phrases such as “ The serviceman’s new charter “ and “ A mammoth contribution to the serviceman’s cause”. However, it is rather important to consider first the- background of the problem of the returned men, which is associated with the problem of the social rehabilitation of the community at the end of the war. Then we can turn to the bill to see precisely what it provides. In one sense the position of the soldier cannot be dissociated from that of the general member of the community; in another sense, his problem is one entirely apart, and the proper approach is to view it in both perspectives. Sometimes it is said - and this seems to be the approach of a certain class of people - that once a returned service man or woman is placed in employment his or her problem is almost solved. I cannot imagine a more shallow conception of our responsibility. The mere placement of persons in employment is only a part of the problem. I do not know the total number of persons in the armed services who will be dealt with under this measure. Certainly it will not be merely the number of men and women who happen to be in the forces when the final shot is fired. It will, be that number, plus many tens of thousands of men and women who have been discharged from the services for different reasons. The most conservative figure is approximately 600,000 men and women.
– The official estimate is about 900,000.
– I agree that the number may well be much greater, taking into account those persons who have been discharged, those who are at present serving, and those who enlist between now and’ the end of the war. In any case, it will be .a large proportion of the total adult population of Australia. Therefore, it is impossible to deal with this problem as one which solely affects service men and women. I believe that everybody is in agreement on that point. Many servicemen will rehabilitate themselves, but the residual figure will still be of such proportions- as to call for all the co-operation and goodwill which can be exercised by members of this Parliament, in honouring the promises which have been made to these men and women during the war years. The mere giving of jobs will be of little importance. In the first two or three years after the war, the finding of jobs will not be a very difficult task. The intelligent placement of men in suitable jobs will offer many problems, but the finding of jobs will not be hard because there will be a huge demand for consumable goods, for industrial machinery and for various amenities which during the war have been denied to the people. ‘Considering this factor in conjunction with the hundreds of millions of pounds of dammed-up spending power which has accumulated during the war, we must expect a great demand for production which will create widespread employment. The result will be a shortage of man-power rather than any super-abundance of it. Therefore, I fore-, see no real problem in the immediate post-war years, so far as the finding of jobs is concerned. The real test will be the training of men and women and their placement in jobs for which they are suited. This problem, will not be dissimilar to the one which faced the country when the war broke out, of changing from a peace economy to a war economy. Whatever Government may be in power when the war ends will have to deal with the same problem in reverse. The difficulties involved are so great as to demand the most careful examination. My view is that less emphasis should be placed upon re-employ ment of returned nien, and indeed, important .though it may bc, upon preference for returned men, and that more and more emphasis should be placed upon re-education of service men and women. This approach has been made to the problem in other countries, particularly the United States of America. In America, emphasis is placed, in what is known as the G.I. Bill “, upon education, not in the limited sense of “ the three R’s “, but in the wider sense of training men and women for reabsorption into a form of society which has become strange to them. It was estimated in the United States of America in June, 1944, that £6,500,000,000 would bc expended upon education, as compared with less than £500,000,000 for hospitals, and much smaller sums for other projects. I draw attention to that fact, because it is important that we should plan a system of vocational training for both secondary and primary industries so as to establish a reservoir of trained returned servicemen from which we can gradually draw as industry is reconverted to peace-time requirements. As a necessary concomitant of such a plan, the demobilization of the services should be staggered over a period. When the war ends, servicemen will have a great urge to return to civil life. The government in power at the time will have to compromise between that natural urge and the ability of the nation to re-adjust itself to peace-time conditions. It is important that we should work out plans now for the reabsorption of servicemen into civil life, and I advocate a special points system for demobilizing service personnel, which I shall explain later. This system would determine the discharge of men from the services in accordance with both their personalneeds and the needs of the community in general. Although the servicemen’s problem is a separate one, I believe that it must be considered against the background of the social problems of the nation. It is only a section of the total problem. One great difficulty that the Government has faced has been the making of decisions as to what it intends to do after the war. It is committed’ to a policy of full employment. Also, the Prime Minister indicated before the last general elections that he proposed to introduce preference to returned servicemen. Now the Government seems to be uncertain as to which of these twostools it will sit upon. It seems to me that it has sought to sit between the two and is not supported securely by one or the other.
– Has the Government ever attempted to define full employment?
– Full employment can be defined very clearly, but it may be nothing more than a political catchcry. Any experienced observer must admit that, if full employment really means that every one in the community shall be employed, it will he impossible to achieve full employment without regimenting the workers throughout the country. I am seeking to approach this matter in such a way that I shall reach the real problem. It must be obvious to every Minister who has had the direction of labour that in the reconversion period after the war there may be areas in which people who have established homes will find themselves without employment, because, for example, a factory has had to close down. How is employment to be provided for them? One cannot speak about an economic concept of full employment, because no Australian will submit to full employment in the only circumstances in which it can be achieved, namely, by the most complete regimentation of the lives of the workers and of all the instruments of production.
– -Why should a factory close down?
– A country factory that lias been producing munitions may be converted to the manufacture of pencil sharpeners or handcuffs, as the Government on more than one occasion has already done, the only alternative to which would be to close down. I do not contend that that is avoidable, because frequently it is not. Having to close down certain factories impels the Government to make arrangements elsewhere for the employment of the labour thus displaced.. The only point that I want to make is that the full employment that is spoken of as a concept which excuses the giving of preference to ex-servicemen is not economically possible in this country without the power to regiment labour. That does not mean that there cannot be maximum employment in industry, supplemented by the expenditure of a basic percentage of the national income on essential developmental works, and. further by an elastic and wide scheme of other public works which will take up the slack that cannot otherwise be absorbed. Therefore, not much purpose is gained by talking about full employment when such a concept is, under Australian conditions of maximum liberty for the individual, incapable of attainment, and is used merely to support the argument that the serviceman should have either no preference or preference for a limited term, because full employment is to be provided for all, and consequently special circumstances in relation to ex-servicemen are npt likely to arise. Whatever government may be in power, there will always be the difficulty of adjusting seasonal and other unemployment. The matter is incapable of being resolved completely beforehand, and, frequently it cannot be resolved at all.
– That is a defeatist attitude.
– One must either “ bite upon “ this problem, or leave it alone. Full employment as a concept means that every man and woman who seeks employment shall be provided with it at all times and at the proper standards. I should like one who can speak with authority to state bow that oan be achieved without the ability to regiment the people and direct* them as to where they shall work. The matter does not involve defeatism. Long before the war broke out, I said that men who sought employment should be capable of being employed, and that those who could not be employed should be protected by means of proper schemes of social service. To my mind, that is the sound approach to this problem. It is argued that because the Government’s policy is one of full employment, there is no scope for preference to ex-servicemen.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that if there were full employment there would be no need for preference to ex-servicemen?
– Even if there could be full employment, there would still be need for preference to ex-servicemen, because of other considerations which I am prepared to expound.
– We are in agreement on that point.
– I begin with the assumption that there is an urgent problem within which that of exservicemen finds a place. There must be a change-over of men from war to peace. How is that to be made? It seems to me that the Government has failed to face up to its obligations in this respect. We know that the platform of the Labour party provides for the application of socialism. The Government knows very well that it would not work to the extent of providing full employment after the war. Socialism for the masses has always been a good catch-cry, particularly in the years since Russia entered the war. It is quite clear, however, that the Government has failed to face up to the problem of rehabilitation because it could not make up its mind as to whether it should support socialism or private enterprise. But as the hard, real economic facts were forced upon its attention, it finally conceded that private enterprise can best absorb the majority of those who will have to be employed. This has a direct bearing on the problem of the ex-serviceman. It is high time the Government worked out, in conjunction with industry, a composite plan showing the lines of demarcation between its proposals for employment and the field which private industry may exploit, so that industrialists may know how many persons are to be employed and how they should approach the problem. The matter has been carried much further in America than in Australia. The Barrett Hancock report of February, 1944, laid it down that plans must be devised for the determination of the total volume of man-power, materials and facilities which would be released upon the cessation of hostilities against Germany. It also said that when the war with Japan came to an end there should be precise knowledge of the total volume of man-power, materials and facilities which had to be absorbed, because that would give a lead as to the manner in which they could be absorbed. What has been done in this country which is in any way comparable with that? If anything has been done, we have heard little about it. I am rather inclined to the view that there have been compromises between conflicting sections of the Labour party, with the result that the Government cannot make up its mind upon a concrete plan. The argument is advanced that it must be assumed largely that ex-servicemen will want to return to the work from which they came. That is not the case ; at least 25 per cent, of the -young men who enlisted or who have served during the war will not want to take up again the jobs which they previously held, and an equal percentage will not want to return to the districts in which they previously lived. This is borne out by a survey that was made by what is called the resettlement sectors in America on the east and the west coast. It showed that up to 40 per cent, of the men did not desire to return to the work they had previously done. That is an important feature of the problem of the settlement of ex-service personnel. Most of the men serving in the Royal Australian Air Force, for example, are young fellows from all walks of life, but they have developed during their period of service a stature out of all proportion to what it would have ‘been had they remained in civil life. Each of these cases has to be dealt with as far as possible on an individual basis. There cannot be an en bloc treatment of the problem.
I propose to analyse the- bill in order to consider whether it is the “ great charter for the returned man “ or the “ mammoth contribution “ to the problem which the Government pretends. The first part of the bill to which I shall refer is Part III., which embraces clauses 49 to 53, and deals with vocational training. Power is to be given to the Minister to establish a scheme to be known as the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, but not a word is said as to how the Government proposes to carry out a scheme of vocational training, how the trade, professional, or occupational facilities are to be provided, how the aptitude of servicemen for these occupations is to be determined, or how the unions are to co-operate with the Government in order to implement any scheme of training which it may introduce. Merely because power is to be given, to Ministers to inaugurate a scheme we are told that this is a great contribution to the problem of the establishment or re-establishment of ex-servicemen in civil life. What we really need to know is something about the scheme itself. What has been done to build on the foundations laid by the last Government? Of what use would it be to train men for skilled trades if the trade unions closed their ranks against them? I could give examples of persons other than returned servicemen being refused entrance to the ranks of trade unions. I heard the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) say she hoped that the unions would adopt « generous attitude. So do I, but the Government should discuss the matter with the trade unions and make sure that returned servicemen who become vocationally trained will be admitted to membership by the unions. Otherwise it is a shallow mockery to talk about vocational training. We know that during the war the Government sought to impose compulsory trade unionism throughout the country. Both craft and industrial unions are highly organized, and, unless they are prepared to open the channels of employment inside the unions, the training scheme forecast in the bill will be utterly futile, despite the grandiloquent phrases used by members of the Government. All that this bill does is to give power to the Minister to establish a training scheme. We ought to be told whether the scheme is ready, and, if so, what it contains.
Demobilization is dealt with in Part V. of the measure. These provisions cither mean something or they are mere window dressing, but 1 am surprised that demobilization is dealt with in one clause. In the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada, full provision has been made for demobilization. In the United States the right of a soldier to demobilization depends primarily on his length of service, the number of dependants he has, the state of his health and the economic need for men in key industries. For months I have been trying to persuade the Government to introduce a scheme by which men who have served in the Army for five years and upwards shall be discharged, and that men who have served overseas fm over four yeaTs shall have the right of discharge and- be returned to their homes, where many of them have young children who do not know them. The Government lias done nothing in that direction.
– The matter is under consideration.
– It has been under consideration for over six months. I have, correspondence showing that I drew attention to it over six months ago, but the Government has done nothing, although the final denouement of the war is approaching. Has the Government planned for demobilization?
– Where are the plans?
– The honorable member is a member of the Advisory War Council.
– I have never heard of them and I doubt whether any really crystallized scheme of demobilization exists. If the Government cannot evolve a system for the discharge of men who have served overseas for a long period, it will not convince me that it has gone far with plans for demobilization. This bill was supposed to be a charter of the rights of the returned nian, yet demobilization is dealt with in one clause. The clause states: -
The regulations may provide for the pre paration and administration of a scheme for the demobilization of members of the forces . . .
Could there be anything more futile than for the Government to pretend to have brought down a scheme dealing with demobilization, and then to offer us this ? Where is the scheme? Evidently, we are to see it in the dim by and by. Evidently, nothing has been achieved but to provide for the issue of regulations-, and that could have been done without this enactment. All this is so much windowdressing. I have an earnest conviction that before the Prime Minister was able to bind, his party to preference he had to fight every step of the way in order to obtain any semblance of the principle. This scheme which the Government offers is a concession to expediency and compromise.
The next part of the bill is called Servicemen’s Settlement, a good round title. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) spoke at length about what the Government was doing in this connexion, but what, in fact, is it doing? This is Part VII. of the bill, and it consists of one clause only, clause 101, which states -
The Commonwealth may, in accordance with any agreement entered into -between the Commonwealth and any State make advances to a State- to enable that State, in general terms, to settle men upon the land. After all, this really achieves nothing, but merely takes power to do something.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Commonwealth should have full power to embark upon soldier land settlement schemes?
– I do, but if the Commonwealth lacks this power, there is no point in pretending that it possesses it. The Government seems to have undergone an extraordinary change of mind. In August of last year, I held certain views, in agreement with those of Ministers, on the subject of Commonwealth powers, including its powers in relation to soldier settlement. Now, we are given to understand that everything which, this bill provides is constitutional! and that the Government has power to act in regard to soldier settlement. The clause, which I have- quoted, merely says that the Commonwealth may, in accordance with any agreement between the
Commonwealth and a State, take certain action.
– The agreement has been already made.
– I should like to know what it is.
– It was made while the honorable member was abroad.
– This part of the bill contributes nothing towards soldier settlement. Evidently, the Government has no plan for soldier settlement. The war with ‘Germany is already over, and we do not know when the war with Japan will end. I venture to say, however, that when it does end the Government will still be without a plan for soldier settlement.
Part VIII. of the bill deals with housing. This is a matter which I should have thought was, above all others, of primary importance in the reestablishment of soldiers. The one thing which all the returned servicemen will want is homes in which to settle, and that as soon as possible after the war is over. This part, also, consists of only one clause, and it begins with these words -
Tile Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, enter into an agreement with any State for the allocation of dwelling houses amongst discharged members of the forces . . .
I should like some one to tell rae what is meant by those words.
– They mean that, as the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) owns several houses, including one at Palm Beach, he will be required to make some of them available to ex-servicemen.
– I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to tell mc what is meant by those opening words of clause 102, and also what plans the Government has prepared to give effect to the provision, whatever it may mean.
I pass over Part IX. - that providing for legal aid bureaux, because they are already in existence, and I come now to Part X. - War Service Moratorium. I read the provisions through, and found that there was something very familiar about, them. Upon closer examination,
I found that with the exception of clauses 116 and 124, which are new, all the moratorium provisions of the bill have been lifted with minor amendments from the 1941 moratorium legislation introduced by the Menzies Government. I had something to do with the framing of those provisions, and I am familiar with them. Thus, Part X. of the bill contributes nothing new in this respect.
It is obvious that the Government has sought to extend the field of preference in regard to employment in such a way as to make preference of little or no value to the ex-serviceman.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– I shall have to condense my further remarks in order to complete my speech within the time allowed under the Standing Orders. I have dealt with all the parts of the bill, and have shown that only three parts have any substance at all, namely, Part II., which contains provisions, relating to employment ;Pa.rt IV., which deals with disabled persons; and Part VI., which relates to re-establishment and assistance. I support the proposals under Part VI., although in committee I shall offer some criticism of them. The provisions with respect to disabled persons relate to, not only service personnel, but also others, and therefore the bill cannot be said to deal with problems affecting servicemen. A perusal of the bill will show that not only does the part relating to employmentcover employment by Commonwealth and State governments, and all private employers, but it also covers all people who have served as members of the Australian Defence Force, or the auxiliary forces, including Voluntary Aid Detachments, so long as they were engaged for any period on full-time paid duties. The Government proposes to give preference to a wide range of persons, some of whom have no real claim to preference. In my opinion those who are particularly entitled to preference are persons who have served at battle stations, or have volunteered for such service. There is great danger in extending the field, and I have little doubt that the proposed extension has not been made by the Government without design. I say that, because not only is it a fact that the more the field is extended the greater is the danger of its constitutional invalidity, but also because the more the field is extended, the less the real value of preference to those who really need it. An examination of the bill will show how valueless is the preference alleged to be given. The vital provision is clause 27. Under it, an employer is bound to give preference to “a person entitled to preference” unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so. It should be pointed out that in practice these words will prove of little value in marking the limits and the contents of the employers’ obligation. It is true that sub-clause 3 of clause 27, sets out that, in determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer shall consider certain factors, including the length, the locality, and nature of the service of that person. But it does not say what relative weight is to be placed upon any particular factor, and paragraphs b and c of sub-clause 3, of clause 27 indicate that the employer shall consider also the comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement, as well as the qualifications required for the purpose of the duties of the position. That one could drive a horse and cart through this provision should be quite plain from a study of the words of the clause. But it does not stop there ; the employer shall also consider the procedure, if any, provided by law for engaging persons for employment in the position. In other words, if under an award of a tribunal a person is entitled to be employed, or picked up for employment, on some other basis, such as seniority, the employer shall be entitled to take that factor into consideration as well as any other relevant matters as provided in paragraph e, whatever they may be. In my judgment, nothing could be more hopeless than to contend that this confers any real preference upon returned men. In my view, experience will show that this provision can never be adequately policed or administered. It will come as a rude shock to servicemen to find how shadowy is the preference which this bill pretends to give to them.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) put -
That the honorable member for Warringal! be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mn. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . .
.- Never before in the history of this country has there been an attempt by any government to do so much for so many as this bill sets out to do. It is a measure to which every Australian should give his most earnest attention. In dealing with it I shall not quote from Hansard to show what various people said at various times, but as one who has mixed a great deal with his fellow men I shall give facts. I assure honorable members that fiction will not play any part in my remarks. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made a lengthy speech, but he did not offer any constructive criticism, or endeavour to show how the measure could be improved. History will reveal that it took a Labour Government so to marshal the resources of this country that we shall retain it, and thus give to the elected representatives of the people an opportunity to discuss such an important measure as the one before us. In my opinion, only those who have mingled with the great masses of the people and understand their problems are capable of legislating in their interests. I was astonished that the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), should make such lengthy references to a recent conference of Labour leaders in Victoria. Honorable gentlemen opposite have quoted extracts from newspapers purporting to report the proceedings of the conference, but as a member of the executive of the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour party, I know that representatives of the press would have had no opportunity to get from the conference the information which they claim to have got. Moreover, the conference was not a federal conference but a Victorian conference, and against the contention of honorable gentlemen opposite that its decisions, even conceding the accuracy of the press reports, which I do not, represent the views of the Labour party as a whole, I put the fact that, when the proposals contained in this measure came before the State executive of the South Australian branch of the party, it was unanimously decided to forward them for consideration to the council, which consists of delegates from every union and every other body affiliated with the party, and it unanimously recommended their adoption. That discounts the claim of honorable gentlemen opposite, based on alleged reports of proceedings at a conference in Victoria, that the Labour party is hostile to the interests of the soldiers. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that very little was being done to enable members of the services to make up their minds as to what they would like to do when demobilized. I remind him that about eight months ago a questionnaire was directed to every member of the fighting forces in order to discover what they wished to do when discharged. I have a copy supplied to me by a member of the Air Force. That disproves the honorable gentleman’s contention. I also have a booklet entitled Advice to Personnel Discharged during the War, in which their prospects are set out very clearly. At all times the Labour party has endeavoured to do everything possible for members of the services. Recently, I received from the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) a letter telling me that the efforts I had made on behalf of a soldier of the last war had been successful inasmuch as his pension had been increased from a 10 per cent. to a 50 per cent. disability pension. That may not sound much to honorable gentlemen opposite, but the point is that, whereas this man had been fruitlessly applying for fifteen years to the Repatriation Department for an increase, the very first time I lodged on his behalf an application for a review of his pension it was granted. It has been said that private employers have a loop-hole in the bill to escape from their obligation to provide preference in employment to returned soldiers. If that should be the case, it will rest with them whether they use it. There would havebeen no loop-hole had the Commonwealth been granted the additional powers that it sought at the last referendum, because one of those powers was in relation to employment and unemployment. The Commonwealth does not possess that power because of the campaigning of. honorable members opposite. They are guilty men, inasmuch as they successfully did every thing in their power to defeat the wishes of not only this Parliament but also the members of the services, because it is history that they voted in favour of the transfer of additional powers to the Commonwealth. They believe that the party which is capable of administering Australia in the crisis of war is also capable of administering it in the crisis that peace will bring. At any rate, had the rest of Australia voted as did the soldiers and the people of Western Australia and
South Australia the Commonwealth Government would have been able, without fear as to the constitutionality of doing so, to demand that private employers give preference to soldiers. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) considers that private employers will do their part. I sincerely hope so, but I am doubtful, unless they are compelled, because vivid in my memory is the fact that during the last war when this country was needing recruits men discharged from the forces were sacked by many private concerns while young men, who would have made fine recruits, were kept on. On that account I am concerned about what will happen during the period of transition from, war to peace. Honorable members opposite have also referred to the provision of homes for soldiers and) the people generally. The provision of homes for those who have fought the enemy is one of the biggest problems that we could face, but this Government will face it with courage and will eschew the methods adopted by antiLabour governments after the last war in the administration of war service homes. The treatment of purchasers of war service homes by the War Service Homes Commission, at the direction of the Government, was in marked contrast to that given ,by the State Bank of South Australia to those indebted to it under the Advances for Homes Act. The State Bank saw fit to cancel some of the arrears owed by its clients who had played the game in the depression, but all that the War Service Homes Commission did was to capitalize the arrears with the result that to-day many purchasers owe more on their homes than they did when they entered into agreements to purchase more than twenty years ago. That cannot be denied. Another lasting disgrace is that when the diggers who had been out of work for years’ got back into work they and their wives were called on every Monday by representatives of the War Service Homes Commission to see if they could increase the payments they were making on their homes. Had the antiLabour government then in power wished to assist the returned soldiers in a practical way there was a golden opportunity to do so. It did not take it, thus indicating its lack of sincerity.
I could give the names and addresses of dozens of occupants of war service homes who received that shabby treatment. I content myself by citing the case of a man who enlisted in the Australian Light Horse as a boy of seventeen. From childhood his life has been hard. He returned hoping for a better life, but found that he was one of the unwanted. There was no preference for him. While his wife was in bed awaiting the birth of her second child she was disturbed by a rap on the window, and then by a shouted question whether she could increase the weekly payment on her home and reduce the debt. When I have mingled with members of the services, I have taken every opportunity to ascertain what they themselves desire. We owe a debt to those who interposed their bodies between us and the enemy, not only in this conflict, but also in the war of 1914-18. The latter rendered as great a service in the defence of this country as those who are now defending us. Therefore, any scheme for the rehabilitation of exservice personnel should pay regard to the rights of ex-service personnel of the last war. The views expressed to me by members of the forces, with respect to preference, can be summed up in these words, “ For heaven’s sake, whatever you do on preference do not place my boy in the position in which I was placed after the last war. If you give preference see that you place a time limit upon it”. Most of the servicemen with whom 1 have spoken on the subject have emphasized the importance of setting a limit, to preference. They have pointed out to me that during the last war they themselves were too young to enlist,’ but by the time the Avar was over and the depression occurred they were married men with young children, and they were penalized under the form of preference provided for ex-servicemen of the last war. Thousands of members of the fighting forces in this war are the fathers of boys who within a few years will grow to manhood. That is why they want to ensure that the preference to be given to ex-service personnel of this war will not penalize their own sons. Those who, like iiic honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), airily dismiss this possibility by saying that youth will look after itself, are blind to the facts. The members of the fighting forces with whom I have spoken on this subject said to me, in effect, “ Now that we have sons about ten years of age, they will be placed in exactly the same position we were in after the last war if a time limit is not set on the preference to be provided after this war. We think that we should get some preference, but we do not ask for unlimited preference.”. In that respect this measure meets the wishes of the great majority of members of our fighting forces. In addition it covers practically every phase involved in the successful rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. Tests are to be applied to ascertain the occupations to which ex-service personnel are best suited, and, where necessary, they will be trained for the positions which they fill. Under the old form of preference, no such tests were provided with the result that many men, after completing their training while being paid at the rate of 60 per cent, by the Repatriation Department and 40 per cent, by their employer, found that they were unsuited for the industry which they entered. They failed not because they were weaklings, or because they lacked ability, but simply because they were not suited for the jobs given to them. That mistake will not be repeated under this measure. The Leader of the Opposition declared that merchant seamen were not entitled to the benefit of the preference provisions because, he said, they have been well paid for the risks they have taken. I know of many members of the MerchantMarine who have lost limbs as the result of service in war zones. They have every right to benefit under this measure. We must always remember that the merchant seaman runs very great risks in view of the fact that he has not anything like the same armament protection as- soldiers, naval seamen or airmen. In any case, the members of the Merchant Marine have played a magnificent part in our war effort by keeping up supplies to the fighting forces. I regard this measure as one of the most important that has come before this House. It should receive the approval of every section of the community. We should do our utmost to repay in some degree the members of our fighting forces for the services they have rendered in the defence of this country. In the course of their rehabilitation we must deal with their problems sympathetically. This country had a very close call in the early days of the war, and we have every reason to be grateful that we have not suffered much greater losses. Unlike many other countries we shall not be confronted with the colossal task of restoring shattered cities and towns. We should thank God that we have escaped the horrors of bombing. I am confident that the people of Australia will applaud the proposals of the Government which are designed to repay in some small degree the magnificent services rendered to this country by the members of our fighting forces.
. Almost every honorable member opposite who has spoken in this debate, including the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), has commenced his remarks by expressing the hope that the measure would be discussed in a nonparty spirit. They have urged us to discuss this bill in an amiable manner. However, without exception, they then proceeded to blacken the reputation of preceding governments while, at the same time, praising the action of this Government in introducing this forlorn measure. I cannot join in that paean of praise. Before I analyse the measure I shall answer the lying statements which have been made by honorable members opposite regarding the alleged treatment of returned men on the part of preceding governments. Such statements are misleading to the community. Typical of them was the statement by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) who besmirched the reputation not only of preceding governments, but also of almost every occupant of a war service home. The records of the War Service Homes Department show that purchasers of war service homes are among the finest individuals in the community. They have met their commitments to a greater degree probably than any other section of the community which was similarly indebted. In order to refute the lying canards uttered by honorable members opposite, I propose to quote from the last report of the War Service Homes Commission which was established and developed by governments supported by honorable members on this side of the chamber. To-day, honorable members opposite give no credit to those governments for what they actually did for the returned man, but blackguard them for things which they did not do. According to the last annual report of the commission, 21,443 homes had been built by the commission as at the 30th June, 1944. In addition, the commission had purchased 13,012 homes, whilst mortgages had been discharged in respect of 3,064 other homes. Thus, at that date the commission had provided a total of 37,519 homes.
Some honorable members opposite declared that many ex-servicemen who occupied war service homes made no attempt to discharge their liabilities. They will be astonished to learn, although they should not be amazed if they paused to consider the character of the Australian soldier, that 14,912 purchasers of war service homes have discharged their indebtedness to the department. That represents 39.74 per cent, of the purchasers. The number in arrears is very small, ranging from 2.10 per cent., in New South Wales to 0.83 per cent, in Tasmania. Those figures completely rebut the lying canards of honorable members opposite. I shall go further. When they state that govern.ments during the last twenty years have failed to discharge their obligations to ex-servicemen, they really mean that the community as a whole has let them down. But all the evidence discloses that preceding governments have been most solicitous for the welfare of exservicemen, and the community as a whole has’ endeavoured to show its appreciation of their services. Honorable members opposite pretend that nothing was done for ex-servicemen before the introduction of this bill. They overlook the fact that portions of the bill consist of legislation contained in :i number of acts of this Parliament. Almost every clause represents something that previous governments did for cx-servicemen.
– Then why does the honorable member oppose the bill?
– Some provisions of the bill are commendable, because they constitute a foundation on which we may b it 5 1 el in future, but other clauses are open to severe criticism. The Government itself can be charged with lack of sincerity to give real effect to the principle of preference to ex-servicemen.
– The honorable member fears that this bill will prevent the exploitation of ex-servicemen.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), who is not an ex-serviceman, accuses me - a returned soldier - of being desirous of exploiting returned soldiers. Those who would exploit them are more likely to be persons who have never worn a service uniform. A perusal of the records will show exactly what previous governments have done on behalf of ex-servicemen. During the twenty years ended the 30th June, 1941, expenditure from Consolidated Revenue on war and repatriation services, including war pensions, amounted to £202,235,912; war loan expenditure, excluding expenditure on war service homes - was £77,472,000; and war gratuities paid in cash totalled £27,061,66S. Those figures are taken from the Commonwealth Year-Boole, and honorable members may verify them. Thus, more than £300,000,000 ‘ has been expended, not by any government, but by the community as a whole, in an endeavour to do something worthwhile on behalf of those who fought for this country in its darkest days. The payment of over £27,000,000 in gratuities after the las* war will compare favorably with the scale of gratuity that this Government proposes to grant to ex-servicemen. Therefore, when honorable members opposite claim that the Labour party has- been most solicitous for the welfare of the returned soldier, I am obliged to consult the records for the purpose of revealing the facts. The achievements of antiLabour governments will stand against what this Government proposes to do on behalf of ex-servicemen.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is frequently applauded by honorable members opposite when he describes his experiences as a soldier settler after the last war. He incurred heavy losses, and now he harshly condemns the whole system of soldier settlement, giving the impression that every returned soldier who went on the land failed and that governments gave him no assistance whatever. All the evidence rebuts those statements.
– Surely the honorable member does not contend that soldier settlement was a success?
– It was no less a success than any civilian effort that was similarly made. An equally great proportion of civilian settlers failed for a variety of causes. I am not criticizing the ex-serviceman who did not succeed as a primary producer. I was a soldier settler, and failed, and struggled for many years to discharge my liabilities long after I had left the land. But the fact that I failed as a soldier settler was not the fault of the government of the day or of myself. I had excellent land. The trouble was that I had to contend with various plant diseases, and a slump in market prices, which made it impossible for me to carry on. If we desire ito examine the reasons why the majority of ex-servicemen failed on the land, we do not have to look very far for them. They failed for the same reasons as I failed. They purchased land in 1920 when the values of property, primary products, stock and equipment were inflated. Within a short period, the market for primary products slumped, and the settlers were unable to meet the commitments which they had incurred. The Government of Victoria has issued a publication, compiled by Mr. R. Gillespie Jones, illustrating the extent of that slump. In 1920-21, sheep and fat lambs were worth £1 13s. 8d. on the Melbourne market. By 1932-33, the price had fallen to Ils. Sd. During the same period the price of fat cattle declined from £23 15s. to £9 16s. Representing one of the largest butterproducing areas in the Commonwealth, where a considerable number of settlers were placed on the land, I am able to relate from experience the story of the decline of prices of butter fat. In 1920-21, when ex-servicemen were purchasing cattle at high prices, the value of butter fat was 2s. 4.06d. per lb. Ten years later, the price had dropped to ls. 2d. per lb., and in 1933-34 to 9d. per lb. By 1940-41, it has recovered to ls. 4d., or only about one-half of the price of butter fat when soldier settlers purchased their stock and properties. Those few facts illustrate why soldier settlers failed. They took up their holdings under boom conditions, and although many of them were experienced farmers, they had no hope, from the start, of succeeding.
Honorable members opposite grow expansive on the subject of what this Labour Government will do for the exserviceman. I propose to cite the experience of a soldier settler in my electorate. In New South Wales the administration of soldier settlement is carried out by the State Government, through the Department of Lands. At the settlement of Dyraaba, about 90 ex-servicemen were established on the land. The majority of them are still up to their ears in debt, and have very little prospect of discharging their obligations. The only authority which can relieve their plight is the State Government, lead by Mr. McKell. I took a personal interest in one case. After the death of their father - a soldier settler - and mother, four lads were left on a dairy farm. The eldest was eighteen years of age. The four boys did the milking, prepared the food, cleaned the house and washed and ironed their clothes. Until last year, the State Government insisted on taking one-third of their income for the purpose of reducing the father’s outstanding debts. During the winter months, their income amounted to £5 or £6 a month, reaching £20 or £25 in the summer. When I made representations on their behalf, the Minister for Lands, Mr. Tully, informed me that the financial position of the boys was healthy. On making further inquiries, I learnt from their trustee that their so-called “healthy financial condition “ resulted from the fact that he had set aside £50 for them, because he had not paid their father’s funeral expenses .and other debts, and had paid to them only pocket money and the cost of their food. But the Minister for Lands in a Labour government declared that the existence of the sum of £50 was justification for his refusal to grant any relief to the boys. If any honorable member opposite desires to challenge my statements, I shall pay his expenses to Dyraaba so that he may verify them.
– “Was that a successful form, of soldier settlement, when the settler’s sons are still heavily in debt?
– The Labour Government in New South Wales has the means to relieve the plight of soldier settlers, but has not made any attempt to do so. All that honorable members opposite try to do is to condemn the achievements of previous governments.
I have already given reasons for the failure of soldier settlement after the last war. Doubtless other reasons exist, and any government, which is attempting to settle ex-servicemen on the land, should take them into account. The reasons which I gave were the inflated price of land, the slump in market prices for primary products, lack of experience on the part of many settlers and the heavy burden of accumulated debt and interest. The Government should make a careful note of those facts when it is placing exservicemen on the land, under the pretext of giving them a start in life. We cannot wrap up the prosperity of the exserviceman as distinct from other sections of the community. One means whereby the Government may ensure that not only the ex-serviceman, but also the civilian shall get .a fair deal is to recast a great deal of this legislation, and reconsider its economic plans for this community.
My principal purpose in participating in this debate was to indicate what had been done in the past, and to express the hope that in the future less time would be spent on recriminations, and more effort devoted to the future of our discharged service personnel. There are few honorable members in this House who are not represented by sons, daughters or other relatives in the forces, and, therefore, there should be a much greater effort by all parties to contribute something really worthwhile to this debate. I hope sincerely that when this measure reaches the committee stage, there will be a disposition on the part of the Government to accept amendments moved by the Opposition, at their true value, and not to regard them merely from a party political standpoint. Of what use is it for honorable members opposite to adjure honor able members of the Opposition to approach this measure in a non-party spirit, if every amendment which we on this side of the chamber propose is to be defeated by the regimented vote of Government supporters acting in accordance with the decision of caucus ? I trust that that will not be the fate of this bill, whatever may have happened in connexion with other measures.
I regret that I cannot be more congratulatory to the Government upon the preference provisions of this measure. These provisions have been dealt with fully by other speakers on this side of the House, and it is clear that they do not mean anything at all, except that they will take away from ex-servicemen the real preference which exists in the Commonwealth Public Service Act. This bill proposes to delete from that legislation the existing preference sections, which provides for preference in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service to soldiers who have had overseas service In place of that definite advantage, this bilL provides for preference to a wide range of individuals, many of whom have not been on active service and others who have never even been members of the fighting forces. Therefore, instead of this measure being something upon which the Government is deserving of congratulation, we find that its effect will be to deprive the real soldier - the man who has actually done the fighting - of advantages which he at present enjoys. That is not a light burdon for the Government to take upon its shoulders. If we are sincere in our desire to do our best for ex-servicemen, then let us get down to the job; let us apply our collective intelligence to devising something worthwhile. It is not an easy task. The federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia drafted a bill about two years ago and presented it to the Government for consideration, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) indicated in this House that the league’s proposals probably would be the basis of. a preference act. However, having analysed the measure submitted by the league, I am not sure that it would be adequate either. It has many deficiencies. Therefore, I consider that if this problem is to be tackled in the way it should be tackled, the Government should be prepared to accept amendments in the spirit in which they are moved, namely, to further the well-being of discharged service personnel.
This bill lacks courage. It has not been introduced by the Government of its own volition. The Government virtually has been compelled to introduce the measure because of an undertaking given to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). The scope of the bill has been limited by qualifications imposed by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, including the seven years limitation. Irrespective of what may have been the Government’s own view in regard to the granting of preference, it is bound by the decision of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, to which it made a promise that the limit of seven years would be imposed. The bill lacks imagination because its only worth-while provisions are those taken from legislation passed twenty years ago. It lacks generosity also, because it only concedes to the serviceman the very minimum that the Government considers it can get away with.
.- This is one of the most important measures which the Parliament of this country has ever had to consider. As its title suggests, it i3 designed to reestablish members of the forces. With the general principles and purposes of the measure no honorable member will disagree. No doubt some honorable members consider that the problem should have been approached in a different way, but after all such views are only a matter of opinion. Having listened to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), one would be led to believe that the bill did not contain any worthwhile provisions except those taken from legislation enacted in past years. The honorable member said that the bill lacked courage and imagination and that the Government was bound by an outside authority. These things have been said about the Labour party and Labour governments through the years. Nevertheless, Labour governments have placed on the statute-book of this country legislation which has stood the test of time, and has formed the basis of much of this country’s economy. I do not deny that this measure has some shortcomings. Most legislation has minor deficiencies, but these can be eliminated as time goes on. The attack upon the Government to which we have just listened was typical of the honorable member for Richmond. The honorable member claimed that members on this side of the House had indulged in lying and misleading statements which were damaging to the community. Then he proceeded to tell us what had been done for returned soldiers by governments of which he was a supporter. I have lived long enough to have clearly in my mind what happened to the returned soldiers after the last war. Preference in various forms was promised to them by various governments, but those promises were not honoured and little was accomplished. I recall one occasion on which a party of men, led by returned soldiers, came to the .steps of this building to protest against the failure of the then government to find employment for them. It is idle to say that unemployment was the responsibility of State governments. The Australian Capital Territory is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. At that time unemployed residents of Canberra were being given only one week’s work in three. The administration then in office, despite its boasts of preference to returned soldiers, and of its alleged accomplishments on their behalf, told the unemployed workers of this city that there were no jobs for them ; yet there were hundreds of people here who required homes. These are facts which cannot be denied by the Opposition. Many honorable members opposite were either supporters or members of the government then in office. The promises made to the returned soldiers in the past by anti-Labour governments were so- much cant and humbug. There is only one thing that can be done for members of the forces; we must re-establish them in the community and ensure that they shall have the right as citizens of this Commonwealth to work and to earn sufficient money to provide adequately for themselves and their families.
Whatever criticism may be levelled at this measure, the fact remains that it is designed to rehabilitate the men and women of this country who served Australia in its hour of need. Further, the measure provides for certain other individuals in the community who, because of the regimentation of labour for a maximum war effort, were denied the opportunity which they sought to enlist in the fighting services and to play their part in the front line. They, too, have to be considered. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) claimed that it would be impossible to achieve full employment unless the Government had complete control of labour and could regiment it. There may be something to be said for that.
– In favour of regimentation ?
– No, I am not in favour of regimentation, but I was in favour of giving to the Government full control over employment in this country. The people of Australia said “No” to that proposal ; but I say to the honorable member for Warringah that to say that because the people have denied the Government power over employment and unemployment, it is impossible to have full employment in this country, suggests an attitude of despair. In any case, this Government has already placed upon the statute-book a measure to safeguard against unemployment and sickness. The only consideration is to provide a measure which will enable these people to be re-established in civil life at the conclusion of the war. A surprisingly large number of men and women already have been re-established in civil life. Facts and Figures of Australia at War for March, 1945, contains this information -
The placement of 103,000 servicemen and women discharged from November, 1943, to December, 1944, is shown in this table -
I have heard this measure criticized on the ground that the Government has not taken care of those who have been discharged and need rehabilitation or special treatment because of the disabilities from which they suffer. Those figures show what had been accomplished up to December, 1944. If that could be done in days of such great trial and trouble, when the Government was busily occupied with other problems arising from the war, I am certain that, when hostilities have ceased and the very much larger problem has to be tackled, this measure will be the springboard from which the Department of Post-war Reconstruction will be able to ensure a better standard of living for the people as a whole. It is true that full employment is complementary to the planned organization and development of our resources. The objectives are defined in the bill under four headings, namely, high and. rising standards of living, the completion of a comprehensive social security programme, the rapid development of our national resources, and adequate political and military provision for defence. I assume that everybody will be in agreement with that as a programme. The reemployment of all our employable men and women who are likely to be involved will be a task of great magnitude. If we remember that 1,250 ex-servicemen and women are undertaking full-time training and that more than 3,000 are in part-time training, we shall gain some appreciation of the problem that will confront the nation as the war draws nearer to a close. This programme is realistic in essence, and just as realistic for peace as it was in war. The nation is clothed with the responsibility of so organizing its resources that its people will be fully engaged in reproductive employment after the cessation of hostilities. The criticism of the bill is interesting. Preference to ex-service personnel is the peg on which the opponents of the measure hang their hats. Without a complete organization of our resources, any preference would be only a hollow sham. If we fail to re-establish these men and women in civil life, and to organize the state of our society after the war in such a way that every person will be able to obtain a measure of the good things of life, which we can produce in great abundance, then I am satisfied that democracy as we know it to-day will not endure. We cannot revert to the conditions which operated prior to the war, when thousands of our people were unemployed, despite the fact that there was an abundance of the good things of life in this country. We have to tackle the matter of distribution. Unless we organize our resources in days of peace so that we shall be able to provide for the people when they are sick, as well as when they are well, we shall fail miserably, and the war, in which members of the forces have made such great sacrifices, will have been fought in vain. The discussions on this subject at a conference of the International Labour Organization, were extremely interesting. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction referred briefly to that gathering in his second-reading speech. He said that the bill had been drawn in conformity with the principles laid down by the International Labour Office Convention. I shall quote briefly to show what was done by the conference, because it devoted a good deal of time and thought to this matter. The report states -
Each government should collect whatever information is necessary regarding workers seeking or likely to be seeking employment and regarding prospective employment opportunities, with a view to ensuring the most rapid re-absorption or re-distribution in suitable employment of all persons who desire to work.
The demobilization of the armed forces and of assimilated services and the repatriation of prisoners of war, persons who have been deported, and others, should be planned with the objective of maximum fairness to individuals and maximum opportunities for satisfactory re-establishment in civil life.
Each government should, to the maximum extent possible, provide public vocational guidance facilities, available to persons seeking work, with a view to assisting them to And the most suitable employment.
Training and retraining programmes should be developed to the fullest possible extent in order to meet the needs of the workers who will have to be re-established in employment or provided with new employment.
Efforts should be made during the transition period to provide the widest possible opportunities for acquiring skill for juveniles and young workers who were unable, because of the war, to undertake or to complete their training and efforts should also be made to improve the education and health supervision of young persons. >
The re-distribution of women workers in each national economy should be carried out on the principle of complete equality of opportunity for men and women in respect of admission to employment on the basis of their individual merit, skill and experience, and steps should be taken to encourage the establishment of wage rates on the basis Of job content, without regard to sex.
Disabled workers, whatever the origin of their disability, should be provided with full opportunities for rehabilitation, specialized vocational guidance, training and retraining, and employment on useful work.
Measures should be taken to regularize em*ployment within the industries and occupations in which work is irregular, in order to achieve full use of the capacities Of the workers.
The report then sets out the methods of application of the conventions, and deals at some length with vocational guidance, training and retraining programmes, geographical mobility, and the employment of women. In respect of this lastmentioned subject, there is an interesting recommendation, which reads -
The re-distribution of women workers in the economy should he organized on the principle of complete equality of opportunity for men and women on the basis of their individual merit, skill and experience, without prejudice to the provisions of the International Labour Conventions and recommendations concerning the employment of women.
The employment of disabled workers is then dealt with. The conference devoted a good deal of time and attention to the subject of employment. As a matter of fact, its basic consideration in all its discussions was that all people everywhere should be provided with employment and, alternatively, when employment occurred intermittently, there should be some provision which would enable them to obtain unemployment. sickness and other benefits. The keynote of the conference was the re-employment of our people after the war. In these days, having passed the stage of isolation, and realizing that our society has to be organized, not only internally in the first place, but also in co-operation with the other countries with which we have been so closely allied during the present awful conflict, we have to synchronize our arrangements as far as possible with theirs, in order to achieve the aim of full employment for our people. That involves considerations of all sorts which it is not necessary to mention. It is obvious that no longer are we living in a world apart. We have to remember that we are associated with the Allied nations in fighting a common cause. We have so to organize our internal economy that our people will be fully employed, and in addition we must synchronize our arrangements with those designed to ensure the employment of people in other lands.
There is one aspect of the measure with which the honorable member for Richmond dealt at some length ; it relates to the rehabilitation of servicemen on soldier settlements. Clause 101 of the bill reads -
The Commonwealth may, in accordance with any agreement, entered into between the Commonwealth and any State make advances to a State -
to enable that State to -
acquire land for the purpose of settlement by discharged members of the forces;
ii) develop or improve land for settlement by discharged members of the forces;
settle discharged members of the forces on land so acquired, developed or improved; and
for such other purposes relating to the settlement of discharged members of the forces on land as. are prescribed.
That is all one finds in the bill about the settlement of soldiers on the land. I wonder whether that simple clause will enable the Government, in co-operation with the States, to give direct effect to its policy in this matter. I have in mind a problem arising on an island off the coast of Tasmania which is 50 miles long and on an average, thirteen miles wide. An organization there has made a survey of the men who left the island in order to serve with the fighting forces, and has asked whether they wish to resettle there after the war. Replies have been received from 90 per cent of the men, who have stated that they desire to re-establish themselves on farms on the island.I desire to know whether land will be available for them, because a good deal of the island is held in fairly substantial areas. Some of it is owned by absentee landlords who are not fully utilizing their properties. I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to state at the committee stage how it is proposed to acquire land for the men who wish to settle on the island. It is interesting to note that there has been a continual decline of butter production on that island from 1939 to 1944. The land is excellent for dairying, and I am anxious to know whether the problem will be approached in a practical way, so that land not now being used to advantage may be made available to ex-servicemen..
The Australian Women’s Land Army has done excellent work during the war years, and has been referred to as “ the fourth line service “. I have received the following communication from the Tasmanian branch of the organization: -
I understand the question of rehabilitation for the services is to come before the House very shortly, and am very anxious that you should keep in mind the “fourth line service”, i.e., the Australian Women’s Land Army. I believe no provision has been made in the bill for these girls, which is another injustice. As you know they are doing a fine job, with none of the glamour or any of the amenities of the other women’s services, not even the attraction of camp or barracks life amongst other young people. We need recruits very badly but have no advantages to offer, not even future security under rehabilitation when their job is finished. Quite a few of them wish to remain on the land after the war. Cannot some provision be made for these girls who are tackling man-sized jobs and deserve some recognition.
That matter calls for some elaboration by the Minister when the bill is in committee. The measure should have been discussed with a view to offering constructive criticism, but I regret that heat has been engendered during the debate. Had the bill been considered with the sole object of re-establishing ex-service men. and women in civil life we should have had a better chance of so improving it that the desired object would be achieved. We all believe that the measure should be so framed as to give a sense of security to the members of the fighting services and others whose daily lives have been affected by the awf ul conflict which seems now to be drawing to a close. I do not regard the bill as a perfect one, but a good start has been made, and the measure is capable of improvement by trial and error.
.- This bill is a hybrid. It is half and half, like the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill, providing for compulsory military service in certain areas, introduced by the Curtin Government. Like all hybrids, such as the mule, there is no pride in ancestry and no hope of posterity. Apparently the measure pleases nobody. The trade unions are dissatisfied with the provision for a seven-years’ preference and servicemen are dissatisfied because of the limitation of the preference to that period. If the Government is satisfied that its much advertised full employment scheme will operate successfully, there is no need for it or the trade unions to worry about unlimited preference, because preference will not operate. If, however, the employment scheme will not give the desired results, service men and women need protection, and it is essential that this Parliament should ensure that they shall be fully protected. Obviously the Government has no faith in its policy of full employment. The Old Book tells us that “ faith as a grain of mustard seed “ removes mountains, but under this bill the Government seeks, to repeal the permanent statutory provisions dealing with preference and insert other provisions of a temporary nature in the interests, not of the returned servicemen, but of the trade unionists. Every one must agree that the problem of rehabilitation after the war will be at least twice as difficult as it proved after the last war. The mere fact that about 800,000 men and many thousands of women are to be rehabilitated, compared with 400,000 after the last war is sufficient indication of that. In view of these extra difficulties we should really add to, rather than subtract from, the charter of the soldiers’ privileges and preference.
I disagree with those who say that the Australian repatriation scheme after the last war was a failure. It compared, favorably with that of any other part of the Empire, and favorably with civilian settlement generally. Its success was due first of all to the liberal repatriation measures, including provision for war service homes, enacted by this Parliament, backed by preference to servicemen in the Commonwealth Public Service. It was well that this Parliament built up a definite tradition and gave statutory proof of its determination to give preference as far as it could, to ex-service personnel. Of course, there were many failures, but that was inevitable in dealing with hundreds of thousands of men. The real test of the success of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is that this bill provides for only one amendment of it - to strike out. a provision which was inserted in 1943, but which should not be deleted because of the charter of preference to exservicemen throughout Australia. Taken by and large, repatriation in Australia from its inception compares favorably with that of any other country.
I take as an illustration the administration of war service homes. Nearly £40,000,000 has been expended in providing those homes, and about 40,000 houses have been built or acquired. Of the £40,000,000, about £2S,000,000 has been repaid, and the annual returns show that the arrears of payments now accruing amount to only £452,000. The sum of about £13,000,000 which is still owing is being paid off by instalments. In fairness to the War Service Homes Department, I must say that I have found it extraordinarily generous and just in its control of this huge undertaking, which it has handled for many years with conspicuous capacity, efficiency and sympathy. I had a talk last night with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), who told rae how certain widows were treated. Nothing could be more liberal. I regret that there has been an attempt to deprecate things which are Australian. We should try to evolve a rehabilitation scheme which will satisfy, not only the party temporarily in a majority in this Parliament, but everybody in the community. During the last twenty years, about £200,000,000 has been paid by the Repatriation Department in war pensions and about £26,000,000 has been paid in direct gifts. About £6,000,000 has been paid for medical treatment and about £4,900,000 has been expended in vocational training. Another £6,500,000 has been disbursed for the maintenance of various service institutions. If those sums were not liberal enough, the fault has been that of this Parliament, because the funds entrusted to theRepatriation Commission have been handled wisely. Soldier settlement compares favorably with civilian settlement in any State, because there have been fewer relative failures in connexion with Commonwealth schemes. Recently I took out the figures relating to the settlement of ex-servicemen in Victoria during the last 80 years and found that the great majority of soldier settlers have succeeded. The proportion of failures being not greater than one in three. Victoria is the safest part of Australia for settlement because of its reliable climate. Mr. Justice Pike, in his report in 1929 on soldier settlement, pointed out that of 11,000 Victorian ex-servicemen who went on the land, 9,000 were still carrying on their farms or a greater proportion than in civilian land settlement. They were able to carry on because they received assistance. When Commonwealth Treasurer, I was responsible for providing £12,500,000 to make good the losses. Let me dispose once and for all of this Labourmyth that Commonwealth administrations were to blame for losses incurred from soldier land settlement. At page 19 of Mr. Justice Pike’s report to this Parliament the following paragraph appeared : -
Losses on Land Values.
An analysis of these figures shows that the reason generally advanced as being one of the main causes of the failure of soldier settlement, namely, the purchase of lands at too high a price isshown to be largely without foundation,except as regards the State of Tasmania.
In two of the States,New South Wales and Victoria, where there were very large purchases of private lands for the purpose of soldier settlement, I have been able to ascertain the loss due to the revaluation of lands.
The figures show that in New South Wales the amount expended on the purchase of lands was £8,403,621, and the writing down £632,141 , the reduction in values on purchased estates amounting, therefore, to about 7¾ per cent. This is, however,above the real percentage of loss, as it includes a certain amount due to the decreased value of improvements that have been effected on the land, and, although I was not able to obtain the exact amount of this writing clown, yet, putting it at its lowest, it reduces the depreciation of land values to about6 per cent.
In the State of Victoria, lands were purchased at a cost of £13,911,821, and have been written down by £253,827, or slightly under 2 per cent.
– Does the right honorable member call that a success?
– It is a success compared with the record of some State governments in respect of ordinary land settlement in regard to which, in some cases, as much as 50 per cent. had to be written off. The time has come to give the Commonwealth Parliament its due for making a success of soldier land settlement. Mr. Justice Pike continued -
It was impossible in the other States to arrive at any figures in regard to this particular matter. In Queensland, although certain estates were purchased, the tenure under which they were let was leasehold, and the writings-off were of advances, interest and rents.
In South Australia, lands within the irrigation areas were let on lease, and the writingsoff were of a similar nature to those in Queensland. In the dry areas, where the lands were sold, there were no general writings-off, but in many cases a concession was given by extending the term of payment over a lengthy period of years.
In Western Australia, by far the larger proportion of soldier settlers were placed on Crown lands, and there was no writing down of these lands, and the reductions in value of other than Crown lands were not made specifically under that heading.
In Tasmania, there has been a writing down of 17.62 per cent. on lands still in the possession of soldier settlers, and an estimated loss on the value of those lands that have been re-let to civilians of 36 per cent. This latter figure, however, has been revised by me, and has been reduced to about 28 per cent., as in my opinion the estimated writing down there is too high. These figures, however, include an amount (which I could not ascertain) for the reduced value of certain improvements on these lands. . . .
Losses of Interest.
It will be seen from the above figures that more than half the total losses of all the States are losses of interest these amounting to £12,162,291, out of the total losses of £23,525,522.
The reason for the heavy losses under this heading is not far to seek, the main cause being the fact that the States were lending moneys to soldier settlers at a rate below that at which they were borrowing moneys. The total loss under this head was £7,051,406, against which the Commonwealth have allowed rebates of £4,700,000, the balance of the £12,162,291, namely. £5,110,885, being written off.
Tn the light of that report, the Commonwealth provided £10,000,000 to cover losses due to the writing-off of interest charges. In every walk of life, soldiers of the last war have made a success - some helped by the Repatriation Department, and some on their own initiative. Of course, it is too much to expect that every one will be successful; there will always be a residuum which will not be satisfactorily rehabilitated. That is all the more reason why we should add too, rather than diminish the benefits to be conferred on returned soldiers. This ‘bill, however, instead of adding to the benefits, takes away existing rights. For instance, it repeals preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service, and repeals the permanent declaration of rights for soldiers as regards civil employment. Ever since the first repatriation bill was passed twenty years ago, returned soldiers have been given preference in the Commonwealth Public Service. In place of this substantial benefit, returned men are now offered a limited preference for seven years. This is of no substantial value because young men returning from the war will have to be trained for four or five years before they have recovered their skill. Thus, just at the time when they are attempting to’ take their part in the life of the community, and are undertaking family responsibilities, preference will end. In fact, a study of the bill reveals the fact that the only clauses of any real importance are those which repeal provisions granting permanent preference.
The most dangerous clauses in the bill are the shortest/ The last clause, for instance, clause 135’, says that during the war regulations may provide for the repeal or amendment of, or the addition to, any provisions of the bill. This is the only hill in which I have ever seen such an extraordinary provision. Apparently, departmental officers may alter, at their own sweet will, legislation enacted by this Parliament. If that is so, of what use is it for us to spend days debating the measure? It will be possible, during the period between now and the termination of hostilities, for amendments to be made quite contrary to the spirit and will of
Parliament. That is a very slovenly provision, and those responsible for its insertion were so ashamed of it that they put it at the end of the bill, instead of at the beginning, hoping that every one would miss it.
Clause 8 provides that sub-section 3’ of section 118a of the Defence Act shall be inoperative if inconsistent with the bill. This is the provision which guarantees to ex-servicemen reinstatement in their old jobs. Under that guarantee hundreds of thousands of men enlisted and left their occupations, believing that their interests were protected as far as jobs were concerned. Now it is provided that this measure of protection shall be withdrawn in favour of the temporary preference measure provided in the bill. The provision which it is proposed to abolish was regarded as a definite charter of rights to all those who went on active service. What harm could it have done to retain the provision! If the general preference clauses providing for preference for seven years are declared by the High Court to be unconstitutional, the whole preference scheme will collapse. It is very important that we should save this guarantee at any rate.
Clause 22 proposes to repeal section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which was inserted after a long debate in this House in 1943. It was accepted by the Government, and with that provision operative all parties went to the country. Now, behind the back of the people, it is proposed to abolish the provision. The action of the Government in this regard is a definite breach of faith.
Clause 23 proposes to repeal sub-section 2 of section 11 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. This is the section which provides that, in making appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service, preference should be given, other things being equal, to returned soldiers. This has applied ever since the legislation was passed 23 years ago. At that time there were 400,000 returned soldiers to be rehabilitated. How much more necessary is such a provision now, when there will be 1,200,000 to be cared for, including those of both wars. Practically every man who is physically fit has joined the fighting services. Therefore, surely it is desirable that the distribution of patronage in the Public Service should be under the control of those who have themselves been in the fighting services.
The bill also proposes to repeal section 83 and to amend section 84 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. These are the important sections of Division TI., which was inserted in the Commonwealth Public Service Act immediately after the last war under the heading “ Returned soldiers ‘”. These alterations will destroy any real -value which this division of the act may have. Section 83 gives preference for temporary employment to a returned soldier and renders him eligible for further employment at any time after the termination of his previous temporary employment. Surely this provision might have been allowed to remain as it is. Section 84 provides that the Public Service Board shall give preference to returned soldiers from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination. That section also ^empowers the board to specify that any particular examination shall be restricted to returned soldiers. This is reasonable, because the very fact that a man has been away on active service renders him less fit to pass an examination in competition with those who have not been away.
Part IV. of the ‘Commonwealth Public Service Act was added in 1922, and provided for the appointment of provisional and temporary public servants. Section 104 of that part gave returned soldiers not absolute preference, but priority over other applicants. That part of the act was inserted to ensure that those who are employed in the Repatriation Department shall enjoy a measure of permanency in their employment. These officers have done a wonderfully good job over the years, and there seems no prospect that in the future it will not be possible to find returned soldiers to fill the positions. Why, then, does the Government propose to repeal the provision?
Clause 24 is dangerous because its effect is to wipe out all preference to returned soldiers given by any law of the Commonwealth, or by any industrial award, and extends -even to the laws of a
State or the awards of a State industrial tribunal. When the bill reaches the committee stage I shall move that the words “in addition to” in subclause 2 be substituted for the words “to the exclusion of “ now in the sub-clause.
Clause 33 provides that all preference provisions shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in the present war. I emphasize that the preference provisions which I have mentioned are not subject to -any time limit. The -value of the seven years’ preference to service personnel is greatly lessened by the fact that, under clause 32, the Central Preference Board may declare any person to be entitled to the benefits of preference. Under paragraph / of clause 4 almost any person could be declared, by proclamation, to have had active war service. It has already been pointed out that the provisions relating to preference for seven years are probably unconstitutional, and, should they be declared unconstitutional, a member of the forces would have nothing at all in the nature of preference, because, in that event, the now-existing preferences would have been repealed by this legislation. The only possible justification for this action by the Government would be a guarantee of full employment to all the people of Australia, including returned service personnel. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction promised that before the debate ended a White Paper on the Government’s proposals in respect of full employment . would be presented to the House. Those proposals are so relevant to the bill now before us that the discussion of this measure should be postponed until the White Paper has been tabled. Obviously, if there is to be full employment for all, including both returned service personnel and civilians, there will be no need for preference, and the unions will have no cause for concern. If, however, full employment is not to be guaranteed in the future, preference will be vitally important to the men and women who have served with the forces.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that there would be np need for preference if there was employment for all?
– We want preference for service personnel all the time; it is a matter of vital importance to them. For the reasons that I have given, it is most important that honorable members should examine the basis of the Government’s proposals for full employment. There are three indispensable factors if the proposals for full employment are to be effective. First, there must be suitable international relationships and policies, in order to ensure markets for our goods, and provide finance with which to pay for the importation of goods which are indispensable to our economy. Secondly, there must be a national programme of reproductive works to be carried out on a continuous and permanent basis. Thirdly, the nation must be efficient, and individuals must be sufficiently skilled in their respective calling to enable them to compete with people in other countries. Australia’s isolation has been removed by modern means of communication, such as aviation and radio telephony. At a time when distance is being annihilated Far Eastern countries have rapidly hecome industrialized. For instance, India has a programme involving the expenditure of £1,000,000,000 in the next ten years; China has big developmental plans; whilst Britain, the United States of America, Canada, and Russia have made enormous strides in industrialization, mechanical efficiency, and mass production during the war. Although Australia also has made great progress in those directions, this country has lagged behind the others that I have mentioned. The national policy necessary to provide full employment must contain a permanent programme of continuous works of a reproductive nature which will tend to provide new employment. It is not sufficient to set one group of men to dig post-holes which another group of men will fill in. Such a policy may provide permanent employ ment, but it will not ensure progress. I urge the Government to take definite steps to direct the activities of returned servicemen towards co-operative enterprises before any war gratuity is paid to them. I remind the House of the success which has attended the cooperative enterprise known as the Returned
Soldiers’ Woollen Mills, at Geelong. I wish, however, to deal specially with the third indispensable requirement if a full employment programme is to be maintained. After the war, provision will have to be made for at least 1,000,000 men and women. Their training is most important, as they will be the workers, the thinkers, and the legislators of the future. Most of these men and women are young; many of them were not fully trained for their future civilian callings when they were called to the colours. Practically all of them would bo between the ages of 18 and 40 years, half of them between the ages of 18 and 30 years. Since 1942, practically every able-bodied person in the community who was able to do so joined one of the services on attaining the age of eighteen years. At the conclusion of the war we may have to provide for between. 300,000 and 400,000 young people, who, when they joined this forces, had not completed’ their apprenticeship, or had not the full training necessary to equip them for life. The question, therefore, arises, where and how shall they be trained. In this connexion it is interesting to observe that in ite last report the Universities Commission quoted a statement by Miss Millicent Taylor, when addressing a Rotary Club in Massachusetts, United States of America, on the subject : “ The Returning Serviceman and His Education “ -
According to a survey of men overseas, it is thought that 2,000,000 will go back to school. Some 660,000 more have indicated their intention of going to college. This is 50 per cent, more than the peak load the colleges have ever carried. In America, they are planning to give them, on demobilization, if they want it, at least one year’s educational training, plus extra time up to four years, according to the time they have been’ in the Army, so that in America they are planning through the United States Government itself to assist, not only the universities and university colleges, but also all schools to help with the rehabilitation of these millions of people who will be eligible.
The bill does not say how the young people now with the forces are to be trained. Some of them will need university training, whilst others will require technical or high school training. The time has come when the Commonwealth Government can no longer escape assuming great financial responsibilities in respect of education. The Government should consider the advisability of either taking over the direction of tertiary education or, at any rate, assuming great interest in the policy applied to this special, final phase of preparation for life’s calling. At the same time, it must determine on the most satisfactory sites for this training. It must always be remembered that the ex-service personnel will be far from normal in their nervous set-up and outlook. A great proportion will tend to be problem cases and will need to be dealt with in special ways, just as in our schools we now have opportunity classes for cases that do not conform to ordinary, normal standards. The treatment and training of those who have undergone the trials and adventures of war are essentially matters for personal interest and attention. To send these men and women to large universities, or big technical colleges, where they are regarded more or less as ciphers or numbers instead of personalities, may wreck their whole future individual life and their value to the nation. Therefore, I think the Commonwealth Governmentshould consider very seriously extending facilities at both the Canberra University and the New England University colleges, and also at the smaller universities of Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart, where much more personal and intimate contact is made with the teachers by the students than at the larger schools. When I did my medical course, I had the great advantage of being one of only nineteen students and, therefore, personally known by every teacher, a benefit which is not possible to-day with 150 or more students attending lectures in each year at the medical schools in the larger universities. It is clear that rehabilitation of discharged members of the forces must extend, after demobilization, for a period of at least seven years. Rehabilitation includes education. Though this is partly covered by the Universities Commission, for the establishment of which I commend the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and those in charge of other departments, it is also general in its nature and now will involve the Commonwealth Government for a considerable time. Claims must be considered for the allotment of money specifically for readjustment and rehabilitation, which implies other necessary expenditure and also co-ordination, without direction, within and between the States, and their thus necessarily implied expenditure on education. It is clear that under a responsible Minister, a department, with a Commonwealth co-ordinator-general of education, should be set up immediately for this purpose. Education thus becoming partly a Commonwealth responsibility within the Constitution, the Commonwealth Government must review the whole field of its required aid to secondary, technical and university education, both for buildings and for staff and equipment. The money involved must, over this period, be thought of in millions of pounds, and, whilst the States and universities are separately responsible for the spending of grants on allotment and have their own machinery, responsibilities and interests in these regards, the necessity for a complete, central controlling body, reporting to and assisting the Minister is of paramount importance. The scheme should include the provision of two new fully autonomous universities, and Canberra and New England are indicated in this regard, a? those are new ventures, in which the States are not so active as they would need to be, in view of the immediate sevenyear loading, the Commonwealth might well, under rehabilitation, take over the bulk of responsibility by guaranteed building subsidies and endowments over a minimum of seven years to put them on a sound and progressive basis to help them in their emergency. Such new universities as Canberra and New England might very readily fit into the new set-up indispensable for Australia. Two new faculties, hitherto non-existent, are necessary - one, a faculty of rural economy, which should be at the New England University at Armidale, and the faculty of social economy would best be situated at Canberra right alongside the legislature and the centre of federal administration. There must be given as well much more general assistance to scientific training and agriculture, both at the universities and at the agricultural colleges. Also, there must be greater decentralization of technical training in the larger country towns. An instance of the value of such decentralization of technical training is readily seen in connexion with aviation. Technical training for this must not merely be for ground staff work, but must be for actual flying, and -the country aerodromes, which are very close to the towns and easily reached on a bicycle in a few minutes, are, at the same time, not very busy and would permit of flying tuition. The same applies to technical training in electrical engineering. The great majority of those who enlisted before they had an opportunity to matriculate will want to take professional courses upon their discharge. It is proposed to provide an allowance of £2 10s. a week to those undergoing training. I contend that ex-service personnel who undertake professional courses should be treated at least as generously as students receiving benefit under the Government’s present university education scheme. They should be given an allowance sufficient to enable them to maintain themselves during the period of their studies. I recall that the present Commissioner for Hospitals in New South Wales, Dr. Lilley, who, for many years, was superintendent of Prince Alfred Hospital, commenced his medical studies after returning from the last “war in which he served as a combatant, and after he had married. Of course he had to earn his living while he was attending the university. We applaud men who are prepared on their own initiative to overcome difficulties-, but we should encourage to our utmost ex-service personnel who will do their best to improve their position in the community. In conclusion I again refer to the article written by Miss Millicent Taylor of the United States of America under the heading, “ The Returning Serviceman and His Education “ and ask the Government to compare the figures which she .gives with respect to the United States of America with our own figures. She points out that according :to a survey overseas, it is thought that 3,000,000 service personnel will go .back to school whilst 660,000 others have indicated their intention of going to college, and that this is 50 per cent, more than the peak load the colleges have ever carried. We should anticipate a similar development in this country. We should encourage this trend among our exservice personnel not only in their own interests but also to enable this nation to compete with other nations, and thus approach nearer to .the goal of full employment by giving the greatest possible opportunities to our ex-service personnel upon their discharge.
– The right honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- This debate has alternated between constructive speeches and most irresponsible attacks by certain honorable members opposite, who should have a better appreciation of their responsibilities to the members of the fighting forces, and of the needs of this country in the years to come. In a recent debate the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) told this House that this Government claimed no monopoly of interest in the welfare of servicemen, but, at the same time, he would not admit that honorable members opposite have any monopoly in that respect. That is true also of the Australian Labour party which has been so much maligned in the course of this debate. Honorable members opposite have alleged that the Labour party is opposed to preference for exservice personnel, and, therefore, has not the interests of the fighting forces at heart. The Australian Labour party is one of the greatest humanitarian organizations the world has seen. It has done more good, perhaps, in its time than any other similar organization in the world.
– The honorable member is giving his colleagues a pat on the back.
– Yes, because it is necessary at times to call the attention of the people to the work which the Labour movement has done, particularly on an occasion like this when it is maligned by honorable members opposite without, reason or justification. The reason why the Labour party has objected to preference from time to time is because it has found in the past not that preference has failed, but that preference which m not based on a consideration of world economic conditions, is not only a sham and a pretence but also a cruel’ delusion to. those whom it is- designed to benefit, Any form of preference to be of real value to ex-service personnel cannot be divorced from Australia’s economy as a whole, or fail to pay regard to all the factors which make up the Australian way of life. This involves problems to which every man and woman in the community should give the most serious attention. Since the last war, every country has sought, by one means or another, to provide a fair deal for their ex-service personnel. Great Britain and New Zealand tried various measures, and we in Australia adopted a certain form of preference. The United States of America adopted a points system in order to give to ex-service personnel a degree of advantage in competition with civilians who had not lost opportunities as the result of war service. For instance, in official examinations^ the exserviceman was allowed a margin of 5 points over civilian applicants, and this was increased to a margin of 10 points in respect of the dependants of deceased servicemen and disabled soldiers. All honorable members know the story of preference in Australia. We do not say that past governments supported by honorable members opposite failed to give preference in the government service to exservice personnel of the last war. However, I charge those governments with having failed to face up to our economic situation as a whole, and realize that any form of preference was bound to fail because they refused to tackle the real problem, and thus made the preference given a hollow mockery. That was the case in other countries also. We have read of the great depression which occurred in the United States of America and rocked that country, the richest in the world, to its foundations. We know that millions of men and women were unemployed in the United States of America. We know of the famous march of war veterans on Washington in an endeavour to bring their problem before responsible authorities, because all the steps taken in that country to ensure that those who had fought and bled, and the dependants of those who had died, should not again know want, privation and misery, had failed in the fierce blast of an economic depression which rocked’ the whole civilized world. I do not admit that, because that depression was world wide, it presented’ an insoluble problem. It could have been solved had it been faced boldly by those charged with that responsibility. The members of the executive of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labour party include a man who put back his age in order to enlist in our fighting services in the last war, another who served with the British Army and was rejected as medically unfit for service in this war, and another who saw long service in the British Army and also in our forces in the last war. The lastmentioned is opposed to any form of preference to ex-service personnel because he is convinced that in introducing a measure of this kind the Government admits that it is unable to face up to the real problem of the rehabilitation of this country, and provide full employment for all our people. Unless we are able to do that, we shall witness the same conditions which disgraced this country after the last war. I appeal to honorable members to recognize the real problem involved in this legislation. This measure has been drafted with infinite care and patience in an endeavour to cover all of the phases of this very vexed and difficult problem in the interests of not only our ex-service personnel but also the nation as a whole. Some honorable members opposite have declared that the bill cannot be commended on any count whatever. In case any honorable member has any doubt as to whether he can support the measure I shall quote the comment of the Sydney Bulletin published in its issue of the 2nd May last. All honorable members are aware of the political affiliations of that journal, which cannot be accused of bias in favour of the Government. The article reads -
Overlooking the preference section, the Re-establishment Bill put before the House at Canberra by Mr. Dedman on 23rd March reads as not at all a bad effort in ex-service legislation. The disputed section could easily be made satisfactory by one or two small but vital amendments, particularly to the qualifications clauses, and in the reinstatement section the measure would he improved if it provided for returned men being given consideration above all others in filling vacancies caused by casualties or by those who had held the positions deciding on return to go in for something else.
This is the most significant point of all -
For the rest, the bill is generally a great advance on what the 1914-18 ex-servicemen had provided for them.
That will be generally admitted. The bill is a great advance on repatriation legislation after the last war. But it would be remarkable if that were not so. If we had not learned anything from experience, but had clung blindly to what we had done before, it would be a sad reflection on this Parliament and on honorable members elected to represent the people.
Before examining the main provisions of the bill, I desire to refer to criticisms voiced by several honorable members opposite. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made a very able and constructive approach to this problem. Beginning with a general condemnation of the bill, he propounded some constructive suggestions, but was guilty, in my opinion, of gross exaggeration when he endeavoured, by reading clause 135, to prove that, by regulation, the Government could undo anything provided by this bill. The clause reads-
The Governor-Genera] may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which are by this act required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this act.
Obviously, the regulation is only a machinery one. The regulations must not be inconsistent with the measure. A similar clause is found in all bills submitted to this House.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) delivered an able speech, but his statement that the proposal to make certain persons eligible for repatriation benefits defeated the object of the bill, was inconsistent with the facts. The right honorable gentleman referred specifically to merchant seamen, and in reply to an interjection, said that they should not be covered by the provisions of the bill, because they had been rewarded by the payment of additional remuneration for entering danger zones, and were following the normal course of their employment. That was a poor excuse. If it were a reason, it could be applied with equal logic to permanent members of the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army. Australian servicemen will gladly concede to merchant seamen, who have undertaken dangerous and difficult tasks in the service of the nation, the right to an equal measure of preference in recognition of the risks that they have undergone. Civilians who have been under enemy fire come in the same category. I served for a limited period in the Royal Australian Air Force - true, only in establishments throughout Western Australia - but I honestly believe that what the mem- bers of the forces desire is that after the war there shall not be a recurrence of certain events which happened in the past. They desire to be given an opportunity that too many of them have been denied in the past. If we afford that opportunity to them, we shall not find, as some honorable members have said, that servicemen, by and large, are persons who must be handled with care, treated gently, and led back by all sorts of seductive measures into civil employment. The truth is that men who have entered the fighting forces have developed attributes, broadened their knowledge, and increased their value to the community by the breadth of their understanding. Of course, a large number will require medical care and supervision for years, and the nerve cases must be treated by the best methods known to medical science. However, given adequate training and experience, all that the majority of ex-servicemen will de- sire will he to make their way in the world without the haunting fear that their employment may be terminated at the will of the employer, and that their savings will be only a temporary standby during a period of unemployment, which, in the past, has been accepted as the natural corollary of any job.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) delivered an excellent speech which was marred by a couple of references that did not do justice to his generally fair approach and the good case that he presented. He endeavoured to show that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Labour party as a whole, were not interested in the welfare of ex-servicemen. As I have already dealt with that aspect, [ shall not pursue the matter further.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), as was not unnatural, saw in the child of his brain - preference to ex-servicemen - the most magnanimous example of what should be done for men and women who have entered the forces. But that was not the case. Preference to ex-servicemen touched only the fringe of this problem, and never reached the hard core of the difficulty which was presented by a vast army of men and women, many of them untrained and unable to enter the Public Service, who took any sort of job. They were in the ranks of the unemployed when the financial depression rocked this country. I cite that instance only to indicate that, in my opinion, preference, whether it be absolute or limited, cannot be a satisfactory solution of the great problem confronting this country, in common with the rest of the world, in the post-war period.
The measure provides for the reinstatement of ex-servicemen in their former civil employment, and re-enacts the provisions of certain National Security Regulations. No employer, even if he desires to depart from the high standard set by the majority of employers, will be able to discharge employees if, as the result of their war service, they are not able to pull their full weight in their jobs. The bill provides remedies if an employer commits a breach of this law.
The provision upon which we can expect disputation is preference. The right honorable member for Cowper declared that with one fell swoop, the Government had abolished all the preference to ex-servicemen that previously existed. That statement was completely incorrect. The Government proposes to limit the operation of preference, but has given to ex-servicemen all the preferential rights that they enjoy to-day, and in addition, preference in employment in private industry for seven years. When that term has expired, it will be found that the situation has been amply met by that provision. Some critics have said that in the first seven years after the cessation of hostilities, all ex-servicemen will not be re-established in industry, and thatsome of them will not have left hospital or training centres. That statement is true. Each individual case must be treated on its -merits. Disabled exservicemen cannot be dealt with satisfactorily under any scheme of preference. The welfare of ex-servicemen after the expiration of the seven years period will depend upon the foundations that we lay in the immediate post-war period. In this connexion I deplore the defeat of the recent referendum, and I believe that honorable members opposite who opposed the referendum also have some regrets. There is a very real danger that in the absence of a price control authority after the war, the release of a vast store of spending power will cause a mild boom followed inevitably by a slump and a depression. Therefore, I say, that to ensure orderly planning in the post-war years, the Government will have to make a further approach to the people in an effort to secure for this Parliament the powers which it will require.
I believe that the limit of seven years provided in this measure will be generally acceptable to the people of this country. I can quite understand the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia wishing to retain existing preference provisions, and to add to them whatever can be obtained. The league would be false to its trust if it did not adopt that attitude; but it would be false to its trust also if it did not realize that preference alone is worthless, and that what is needed is the bold approach to the problem represented by this measure.
The vocational training provisions are, in my opinion, amongst the most important features of the measure. In the past we have regarded education as something designed to benefit the individual. Today, education and technical training must be more widely accepted in this country as being of benefit not only to the individual, but also to the nation as a whole. Upon the technically and culturally trained citizens of this country will depend its future development and prosperity. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland’ that the Government would be well advised to consider extending the age at which members of the forces shall be eligible to participate in the vocational training scheme. We might well consider regarding any one who seeks training for industry at any stage of life, as the responsibility of the Government. We can reap bigger dividends from expenditure on education, than from any other expenditure that this Parliament may sanction. Therefore I hope that the- Government will re-examine its vocational training proposals, and will provide as liberally as possible for all those who desire to undertake vocational training. We must ensure that no disadvantage shall be suffered by these individuals because of their desire to obtain increased knowledge or further technical training to help fit themselves into the economic life of Australia, and so to confer a corresponding advantage upon this country as a whole.
The employment service proposed by this measure is most desirable. In the past we have seen all sorts of employment agencies in operation. Some of them have done all that they could in the interests of the community, but others have been merely the instruments of individuals whose only desire is to make money, without regard to its source. Such agencies have taken money from clients for providing jobs, which have been only of a temporary nature, and have not been worth the fee charged. This is a vital part of the rehabilitation scheme and I welcome its insertion in this bill.
The re-establishment and assistance loans provided for will also be of great benefit to returned soldiers. However, I should like to see a little more flexibility in their administration. When hard-and-fast rules are laid down, very often marginal cases occur which cannot be fitted into the scheme. Some one should be authorized to decide that if an additional sum is required to make a success of a venture, that money shall be freely forthcoming. T realize that in certain cases the limit of £250 may be raised to £500, but in the past we have seen undertakings fail, and the unfortunate individuals concerned lose everything, simply because they were unable to- obtain the little extra finance which was required to ensure success. Therefore, I should like to see some elasticity in the administration of these loans.
I am greatly interested in land settlement schemes. I have had an opportunity to examine the operation not only of soldier settlement schemes but also- of farm settlement schemes generally. They have been characterized by lack of planning. Settlement has been pushed out to areas where there has been no possible hope of success. Wheat-growing has been undertaken in regions in which the provision of a rain gauge over- a short period of years would have revealed the impracticability of such a venture. I have seen people devote twenty or more of the best years of their lives, working in virtual slavery, to the development of supposed wheat lands, only to be forced to walk off their properties; which then have been turned over to sheep-raising - the purpose for which they were best suited. I trust that these mistakes wiM not be repeated. It is regrettable that in the matter of land control there Ls a division of authority between the Commonwealth and the States. However, I realize that the State- governments, too, have, learned from the mistakes of the past. As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) pointed out, in every State there are in favorable rainfall areas vast tracts of land locked up in huge holdings which could be subdivided to provide profitable farms for returned soldiers. Subdivision of these holdings would also benefit country towns - including many situated in the undeveloped areas of Western Australia - which have stagnated in the past because of sparse population.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is housing. The success of housing schemes, and in fact of all rehabilitation schemes which involve the expenditure of money, depends to a large degree on the legislation that the Government is able to bring down, and the use that it can make of the monetary and banking structure of this country. In the past, interest rates have been hopelessly uneconomic. Borrowers have not had a chance of meeting interest payments, quite apart from reducing their capital indebtedness. Settlers have struggled for years, until they have been forced eventually to give up their land, or until, as a magnanimous gesture, some organization wrote down the capital indebtedness of their farms. That is true also of civilian and returned soldier housing schemes. The whole problem requires most earnest consideration, and demands that the high rate of interest which in the past has been imposed upon people who have endeavoured to own homes or farms, shall not be maintained in the post-war years. Generally, I believe that, as the Sydney Bulletin has indicated, the bill represents a very great improvement on. what has been done in the past. Without a bold approach, and a real consciousness that this measure of itself will not be worth anything unless we face up to the problems that will confront this country, even these provisions will be valueless to those whom we hope may be benefited by them. I am supremely confident that we can overcome those difficulties. The problems arising out of international troubles to-day can be solved if they are tackled in a spirit of goodwill by men of all nations. If that approach be made, the wars that have been fought, leaving a trail of men with ruined lives and broken health, many of them without hopeof recovery, need not be repeated. Similarly in the national sphere, if men of goodwill confront the problem courageously, and demand that no vested interests shall stand in the way of the utilization of the resources of the nation in the interests of the people as a whole, wecan make our efforts in the post-war years really worth-while, advance the economic welfare and prosperity of this country, ensure that the rehabilitation of service men and women will be a live thing, and do real justice to those who have fought for and earned it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Abbott) adjourned.
Arbitration Court: Employment of Women ; Alleged Ministerial Interference with Judiciary - Rail Transport.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to refer to incidents which, I believe, cannot be lightly dismissed by this House. Either they reveal grave public misrepresentation of statements by a senior Commonwealth Minister, or they disclose conduct on the part of that Minister which calls for condemnation by the Parliament. Last Monday, a report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, purporting to be a record of the proceedings at the conference held in Melbourne over the week-end between federal unions and Commonwealth Ministers. The country is not unfamiliar with those occasions on which a representative team of Commonwealth Ministers holds secret conclave with those gentlemen’s trade union masters. It was forecast that there would be plain speaking at the conference. The suggestion was made that, as Ministers had monopolized the time at previous conferences, the rank and file were to have their say on this occasion. There were indications of the raising of highly controversial issues. The Sydney Morning Herald, a newspaper which takes a proper pride in giving a very full news cover to events of consequence in the Commonwealth, sent a special reporter to cover the proceedings. It is true, according to my understanding of the position, that members of the press were not admitted to the proceedings of the conference; but it is, I think, within the experience of honorable members of this House, that when large gatherings of this kind are held,, and controversial matters are discussed, the obtaining of a substantially accurate account of what takes place is not beyond the ingenuity of capable pressmen. The report in the Sydney Morning Herald included a highly circumstantial and notable passage, which stated that the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service (Mr. Holloway) had bitterly attacked Chief Judge Piper, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and suggested that he had called together certain Arbitration Court judges to tell them that a general rate should be prescribed for female labour in war-time industries. It was said that the Government had evengot Chief Judge Piper practically to draw up the regulations, so that its policy could be achieved. The report went on to say that, in effect, Chief Judge Piper had been a negotiator between the Government and the court, and that he had proved spineless and weak-kneed.
– Does the honorable member vouch for the accuracy of that report ?
– These statements were placed by me before the Minister for Labour and National Service, in a series of questions that I asked in the House yesterday, and, in substance, the Minister denied them. I do not think that I would be mis-stating the position if I said that the Minister has rarely looked less comfortable when dealing with questions in this House. If I may say so, he has a very experienced and suave technique when handling questions. In this instance, however, his manner suggested that there might be some substance in these statements. Therefore, when he suggested that I should place the questions on the notice-paper, in which event he would give a full and detailed reply to them, I availed myself of the opportunity to do so, and the questions duly appeared. The replies which I received from the Minister consisted of “ No “ to four of the five questions, and to the fifth, that he had nothing to add to the reply which he gave to me yesterday. I remind the House that he had told me that if I put my questions on the notice-paper he would give a full and detailed reply to them. It is not without significance that, as I then proceeded to put a further question to the Minister, which I had forecast before taking what appeared to me to be a point of privilege with you, Mr. Speaker, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), at the hour of 3.20 p.m., announced to the House that further questions should be put on the noticepaper for to-morrow.
– That was merely a coincidence.
– It was a very comfortable coincidence for the Government. The next event which I wish to chronicle is that, according to the press, a letter was sent by Senior Puisne Judge Drake-Brockman to the Minister, in which he referred to the absence, through illness, of Chief Judge Piper, in whose stead, he said, he was acting.
In this letter, Judge Drake-Brockman made a very proper repudiation of any right which might have been indicated in the newspaper statement attributed to the Minister, to call the judges together for such a conference. He also asked the Minister to say whether or not the statement attributed to him was correct, whether he would reply to it promptly, and if he did not intend to reply, whether he would indicate that intention equally promptly.
– Where did the honorable member obtain possession of that letter?
– I am referring to statements which appeared in several daily newspapers. The question which I was thwarted from asking the Minister to-day was, whether he had received this letter, whether he would disclose the details of it to the House, whether he had sent a reply or intended to do so, and, if he had done so, what was the nature of his reply. I was not able to put that question to-day, so I now put it to the Minister. Did he receive such a letter? If he did, has he sent a reply to it? If so, what was the nature of his reply?
The Minister has denied the correctness of the press report. But we must look at certain probabilities which are manifest in the matter.
– The honorable member has no right to cross-examine the Minister.
– I am not crossexamining him, but am mentioning certain irrefutable facts from which the House may draw conclusions. The first fact is, that the man sent by the Sydney Morning Herald to cover this conference is a very experienced journalist who has been industrial reporter for more than twenty years. His name is Mr. Coleman Brown. He has held senior offices in the Australian Journalists Association, and has been the president of one of its districts. I notice in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald his claim that his statements were based on information supplied to him independently by three delegates to the conference. That is the first fact. The second is this : The remarks related to a decision by the court regarding rates of pay for women, so I take the House back to the time when the court’s decision was announced. There is a very influential gentleman in Labour political circles named Mr. A. E. Monk, secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. He referred to the “ timidity “ of the court and went on to say -
The Chief Judge, like the Government in the first instance, had taken the line of least resistance and passed the buck back to the Federal Government.
That was a nasty criticism of the Minister for Labour and National Service by Mr.’ Monk, whose support the Minister values, and whose good graces I have no doubt he is desirous of retaining. The Minister went on to make his own comment, and I hope that the Melbourne Herald reported him accurately. It attributed to him the following statement: -
The Federal Cabinet would discuss the failure of the full Arbitration Court to fix minimum rates of pay for women in vital industries. Every member of the Government was surprised and disappointed at the failure of the court to remedy the anomalous position now existing. “ Failure “ is an odd term for a Minister for Labour to use in referring to courts which are functioning in relation to industry which he controls.
Then we come to the conference in Melbourne between Ministers and representatives of the trade unions. Here we have Mr. Monk highly incensed at what the Minister has done, and he and his colleagues disappointed at the “ failure “ of the court. Behind closed doors they get together to discuss what the court has done. There were forecasts in the press that there would be some plain speaking and that Ministers were not to have it all their own way, so we should not be doing the conference an injustice if we assumed that there was very plain speaking and that views were expressed there as vigorously as they are in this Parliament from time to time. It is not unreasonable to assume that a substantially accurate report of what occurred was published in the press. I am fortified in that view when I find that a report almost identical with that published in the Sydney Morning Herald appeared in the Tribune, the official organ of the Aus tralian Communist party. That report stated -
Ministers made it quite clear that the Government disagreed with the recent Arbitration Court decision refusing increased rates for certain women workers and indicated that action would be taken to give them higher wages. lt was indicated that higher rates would be brought about by National Security Regulations.
Minister for Labour Holloway bitterly attacked Chief Judge Piper of the Arbitration Court. He described Judge Piper as spineless and weak-kneed.
Mr. Holloway revealed that the Government had got Judge Piper to practically draw up regulations to put into effect the policy of higher rates for women in “ referred “ industries.
When the case came before the court foul of the judges were evenly divided on the issue and Judge Piper cast his decision against the higher rate.
Mr. Holloway said that many wartime industries were suffering a severe man-power shortage because women could not be persuaded or forced to leave well-paid positions in some industries where they had between 75 and 90 .per cent, of the male rate to work in others at about ?1 a week.
We pass from the pillar of capitalism - the Sydney Morning Herald - to the pillar of communism - the Tribune - and find that they give almost identically the same account of what the Minister told the conference. We have had plenty of evidence prior to this incident to indicate that there is a well-planned and concerted attack upon the industrial arbitration system of this country. Before Mr. “ Ernie “ Thornton, a leading Communist trade unionist, went overseas, he referred to dissatisfaction with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and in the recent May Day procession one of the banners displayed bore the words, “ Arbitration - is it on the level ? “ That showed an attack on the arbitration system which has been the sheet-anchor of industrial relations in the Commonwealth for many years. One finds from the daily press that the business of the conference in Melbourne proceeded after the Minister had left. The Sydney Baily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald both gave prominence to a demand for reform of the Arbitration Court. The Daily Telegraph headed its article, “ Arbitration reform demanded. A.C.T.U. to seek restriction of judge’s powers “. The report stated -
Melbourne, Tuesday. - Complete reform of the Commonwealth arbitration system wa3 demanded by the executive of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to-day.
The reform, executive members said, should include heavy restriction of the powers of arbitration court judges.
The executive’s demands will be forwarded immediately to the Federal Government.
The executive demanded that work now done by the- Arbitration Court judges should be done by round table conferences or by conferences between employer and employee representatives, presided over by civilian conciliation commissioners.
A Queensland delegate, Mr. Harvey, said, “ Now we have the power in Parliament, let us take the big stick to the judges and make them only rubber stamps “.
Another delegate described Arbitration Court judges as “ an oligarchy which rules the workers with a rod of iron “.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Harbison) put -
That the honorable member for Fawkner be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
– The speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) demands a reply from the Government. It is obvious to those of us who have been watching developments that there have been studied attempts by certain persons: to break down public confidence in the judiciary, as well as to undermine the prestige of this Parliament. The. two things go hand in hand. There are circumstances which make it probable that something took place similar to what was reported. Therefore, it is necessary, to learn whether the Government does or does not sponsor the attacks made on the Industrial Arbitration Court by one of its Ministers. The reply should not be in general, evasive terms. We should be told precisely what took place on this occasion, and precisely what the Minister said. It will not be enough to slide around the situation by saying that a discussion took place; and that certain recommendations were made to the Government. It is obvious that, on this occasion, there was plain speaking. We have become used to plain speaking in this House, and it is more than likely that what was reported to have been said was, in fact, said. I regard the matter as one of extreme importance. An obligation rests upon every honorable member of this House, whether he speaks behind closed doors or in public, to uphold the judiciary. The Government should make a clear statement setting forth just what was said on the subject on the occasion mentioned.
;. - I support the remarks of the honorable member’ for Fawkner (Mr. Holt)., The attack by a responsible Minister on the judiciary, as reported in the press, was characteristic of the kind of attack made by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) who, speaking in this House, said that two judges of the High Court, Mr. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice Rich, had taken off their wigs and openly barracked for the press. Such statements represent a definite attempt to destroy the rule of law in Australia. Indeed, some honorable members opposite seize every opportunity to challenge the rule of law, which is fundamental in a democracy. We know that it is a common thing for the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) to attack members of the judiciary. He has done so without any apology. It is also common for. the Minister for Information to make such attacks, and now .another responsible Minister is reported to have made a similar attack. On another occasion, a letter was written by no les3 a person by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), in which he sought to intimidate the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. It was in reference to a telegram which had been sent to the Commissioner stating that, as his appointment was coming up for consideration by Cabinet, he had better be careful that the evidence which he was about to give in a court of law did not conflict with statements made by the Government. Such attacks are characteristic of this Communist-controlled and Communistridden Government. Reports which appear in responsible journals, based on information gathered by trained reporters, must be given credence. When the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was asked a question on this subject this morning by the honorable member for Fawkner he was obviously very uncomfortable. If ever guilt was written on a Minister’s face it was written on the face of the Minister for Labour and National Service yesterday. He certainly was most uncomfortable. When he was asked certain questions he said that if they were put on the notice-paper he would give detailed answers to them, hut it would appear that he had some second thoughts on the subject, because he again ran for cover. These things have appeared in other journals, including the Tribune, which may be described as the Bible of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward).- This is an occasion in which it is true that “ where there is- smoke there is fire “. The House is entitled to a full explanation.
– Although there is much smoke I d,o not know that there is any fire, notwithstanding that there has been a lot of puffing in an attempt to make a fire. I hope that I shall never have a more difficult task to defend my honour than I have to-night. Yesterday, when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked certain questions the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) prevented me from making a detailed reply by -demanding a simple “ Yes “ or “ No “ as an answer. 1 then refused to give an answer in those words. To-day, when asked the same questions upon notice-
– Yesterday, the Minister asked .me to put my questions on the notice-paper.
– That is so. Today, when asked the same questions I answered them, in the form desired by the honorable member for Balaclava. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. To-night, the honorable member for Fawkner spoiled an action which was perfectly justified by contemptuously stating that the Government had convened another convention of the trade union movement, and was again “meeting its masters “. I remind him that in the early stages of the war efforts were made to get unity among all sections of the community. One means adopted was the holding of an annual convention of the leaders who handle industrial problems in all -States. So successful were the first two conferences that the Government decided to continue them during the war. Accordingly, another convention was held last week-end; it sat on Saturday afternoon and for a short time on Sunday. There were no scenes of disorder such as honorable members opposite have suggested took place. As on previous occasions, the convention was held in camera, because the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), following the example set by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) at previous conventions, gave an outline of the war situation so that the 100 per cent, war effort to which the trade union movement had pledged itself would be continued. I make no apology for attending the convention last weekend, and should the war last another year another convention will take place. T hope, however, that that will not be necessary. The honorable member for Fawkner cannot say that I have ever chided him about conventions of the Australian Women’s National League. The honorable member has repeated tonight the questions which he asked yesterday. If I give to him truthful answers, as I have given on two occasions already, they will be the same as the answers previously given. The honorable member asked me if I had received a letter from Judge Drake-Brockman. The answer to that question is “ Yes “. That letter was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, which is probably the reason why the honorable gentleman knows about it. He also asked me if I had answered the letter. He had no right to ask me that question, but I shall reply to it. The answer is “ Yes “. I have replied to the letter from Judge Drake-Brockman. I would not think of doing otherwise. “What I said in that letter may possibly be read by those who read to-morrow’s Sydney Morning Herald, but until the judge makes it public, it would be bad manners on my part to make it public here. I wish also to say that when I criticize any person, I say it outside the Parliament, and not under cover of the privilege of which honorable members opposite sometimes take advantage. I have never yet said anything that I have had to recant, or of which I have been ashamed.If the matter goes further, as I think it will, I shall answer the questions that may be put to me. I have no fear about telling the truth regarding what I said. The honorable member for Fawkner knows, as does the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), that there is nothing wrong in a government asking judges of the Arbitration Court for advice; it is not infra dig. to do so.
– I agree.
– On dozens of occasions, I have attended judges in their chambers or even in the court itself to ask for their advice. I have received advice from every judge that ever sat in the Arbitration Court.
– That is quite proper.
– I am glad to have had that help from the judges, andI hope to have it on other occasions in the future.
– There is a different suggestion in the newspaper article.
Mir. HOLLO WAY. - Yes, it is all suggestion. The trouble with the honorable member for Fawkner is that he has not been able to make me say something out of which he can make political capital. If I were to do so, it would mean telling an untruth. I repeat that everything thatI have said here I have said outside, and that I shall not recant anything that I have said. I have never yet had to do so, and I do not expect to have to do so in the future. I repeat that the honorable member for Fawkner had a perfect right to ask the questions that he did ask. I have given him truthful answers, and I cannot do more than that.
. -Since the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) referred, this afternoon, to a subject which I raised in this House two days ago, I have sent to him a copy of a letter which I desire to have recorded in Hansard, because it is an excellent example of the stupid methods under which railway transport is conducted. The letter, which is from the secretary of the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia, reads -
The Minister of Agriculture, the Honorable ft. F. Jenkins, M.J?., has noticed that in the Houseof Representatives you had raised the question of the transport of onions from Mount Gambier to New South Wales.
I am directed toy the Minister to advise that when at Mount Gambier on the 3rd April he received a deputation from the Onion Growers Association on the matter of transport for their crop, and he communicated with the Deputy Director of Rail Transport, Mr. G. H. Ashton, who has now advised that arrangements have been concluded with the Con troll er-General of Foodstuffs and the Commonwealth Department of Transport for rail transport of onions from South Australia to Sydney and Brisbane via Broken Hill-
I ask the House to take notice of “via Broken Hill”- and also for weekly quantities to Western Australia accordingto the rail space available over the Trans-Australian line.
With regard to onions in the Mount Gambier district, arrangements have been completed for the supply to the Foodstuffs Departments, Victoria, of 600 tons, and these arc being despatched at the rate of 60 tons per week, 212 tons having already been railed. It is hoped that some disposal will be found and transport made available for the remaining 400 tons.
The Minister is giving similar information to the South Australian press.
The fact is that one contract for the sale of 130 tons of onions from Mount Gambier to New South Wales was not proceeded with because rail transport was not made available. There “was another instance in which 480 tons of flour was moved into South Australia - I think it all went to Mound Gambier - in the last twelve months. So we find the ridiculous position that the Minister can provide rail transport to bring flour to Mount Gambier, but not to take onions from Mount Gambier to Albury. That, would not be half so serious if it were not for the fact that this has happened time and time again. I intend to give a brief recitation of my experience of rail transport in my electorate, which is a border one, since the Curtin Government took office. First we had the embargo, under which tinned plate goods manufactured in Adelaide could not be sent to Brisbane. Then we had the case of Mann’s pig. He bought a three-months-old pig at Toowoomba and was not allowed to transport it to South Australia because it was necessary to save coal. I have it in writing that that was the reason given by Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited when it returned his cheque. Then we had the refusal of the Transport Department to allow potatoes grown at Mount Gambier to cross the border to be sold at Albury, the normal market. Then there was the case of O’Connor’s hay. The Minister laid it down that 100 tons could be transported as chaff to Victoria if it went at the rate of 15 tons a week. Any man with any knowledge of agriculture would roar with laughter or weep with grief at having a? a place like Mount Gambier to cut 100 tons of hay into chaff to be sent to Victoria at the rate of 15 tons a week. The Minister will recall how, last December, he graciously permitted brood mares to be transported on the condition that they were not to race after they were in foal. He may know a little about breeding “ tin hares “ but nothing about breeding livestock. The Minister ruled that onions had to go to Brisbane and Sydney via Broken Hill, involving three breaks of gauge instead of one, and when the onions were at Broken Hill they were about as far away from Sydney and Brisbane as they were when they were at Mount Gambier. Then it was laid down, early last year, that potatoes could not be sent on the broad gauge from Mount Gambier to Adelaide, but had to be sent on the narrow gauge, via Wolseley. That meant that they be man-handled from the narrow gauge to the broad gauge. Finally, we had the case of Phelan’s greyhound. I had the .pleasure of sending to Phelan the communication sent to me by the Minister, who has a technique all of his own. He does not send a letter “ with compliments “. All you get is “ forwarded by E. J. Ward “, in type. If the Minister examined a brake van on a train he would see what are called dog boxes, but in the letter he said that he could not allow the dog to be sent to Orange, New South Wales, because he wanted to save coal. That is the biggest transport joke I have heard during this war. That is a brief resume of what I have seen of border transport and interference in the relationship between producers in my electorate and their customers in Victoria and New South Wales.
– T could not be expected to be able to memorize all the small matters raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) concerning transport problems, as he describes them, but I assure him that I shall have the matters examined and get a complete report. I know nothing about Phelan’s greyhound. I am satisfied from the honorable member’s record, .that after I have examined the files I shall find that his statements are absolutely incorrect. The Transport Department is, as you know, Mr. Speaker, efficient. The requirements, particularly, of primary producers are promptly dealt with. I am sure that I shall be able to give the honorable member satisfactory answers to the points raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 - No. 21 - Arms, Explosives and Munition
Workers’ Federation; Amalgamated Engineering Union; Australasian Society of Engineers; Blacksmiths’ Society of Australasia; Electrical Trades Union of Australia; Federated Engine-drivers’ and Firemen’s Association of Australasia; and Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees’ Union of Australia.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Victoria Park East, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 11.39 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Re-employment of Discharged Servicemen: Alleged Victimization.
Housing: Commonwealth and State Schemes.
Arbitration Court: Employment of Women ; Alleged Ministerial Interference with Judiciary.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
y asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– I shall have the subject-matter of the honorable member’s question, investigated and will furnish a detailed reply at the earliest possible moment.
Rayon Industry: Lease of Factory at Rutherford.
n. - On the 11th May, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked whether I could make a statement regarding the conditions under which the Government had leased- the munitions factory at Rutherford to a company for the purpose of manufacturing rayon.
I am now able to supply the following information : -
The land and buildings of the Rutherford gun ammunition factory cost the Commonwealth approximately £850,000. Portion ot the property has been leased for a term of years for purposes of production of cotton and rayon piece goods. The terms provide for rental to be assessed according to the factory area taken over from time to time. Under certain conditions in the document of lease the parties may negotiate for disposal of the property, but this is subject to valuation upon conditions obtaining At the time of negotiation.
Was Expenditure Committee.
y. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked me to make a full statement’ of -what legal proceedings, if any, had been commenced against certain persons mentioned in the report of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure on Allied Works Council projects in New South Wales, the names of the persons against whom they had been taken and the stage that they had reached’. The honorable member also asked that I should make public the details of any such proceedings^
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the joint committee recommended that the Crown Law authorities proceed with such further investigations as were considered necessary and that suitable legal action be then instituted. Further investigations involving extensive inquiries were carried out by the Investigation Branch and counsel were briefed to advise on the evidence so obtained’. A writ was sub- sequently issued out of the High Court against Stuart Brothers Proprietary Limited, John McGrath and Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick claiming £4,000 damages. The statement of claim was filed and served’ on the 20th April, 1945, and the defendants have now asked for particulars to be supplied to them of certain of the allegations in the statement of claim and these are now being prepared. As the matter is sub judice, I am not in a position to make public the details of the legal proceedings as asked for by the honorable member.
Australian Army : Blood Transfusions Pump; Small Craft.
n. - On the 8th May, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) referred to a blood, transfusion apparatus invented by Dr. Julian Smith, of Melbourne, and asked whether it would he examined with a view to its use as part of the regular equipment of the Army.
The Acting Minister for the Army has now furnished me with the following reply : -
The apparatus invented by Dr. Julian Smith is well known to the Army medical authorities. Its use is limited to direct transfusions from donor to recipient and it requires an expert medical officer to operate it. It cannot be used for transfusion of stored blood, which is the universally accepted method applied in the field. The standard Army apparatus is so designed that it can be operated by trained nurses and orderlies as well as medical officers, and has successfully stood the test in widely varying conditions in the field and in hospitals in the Middle Bast, New Guinea and the islands in the South-West Pacific Area, as well as on hospital ships. Countless lives have been saved by the use of the Army apparatus in the transfusion of stored blood supplied by the Red Cross Blood Transfusion
Service in co-operation with Army Medical Service. During the period from October, 1943, to end of March, 1945, some 1,500 transfusions have been performed in Army medical units and of these only two were by the direct transfusion method. Some 2,000 bottles of stored blood were used and 328 bottles were collected from local donors. It is the considered opinion of the Army medical authorities that the only satisfactory method of blood transfusion for general use in the field is by the use of stored blood supplied by the Blood Transfusion Service, supplemented in special cases with blood collected from local donors. The method of blood transfusion practised in the British, American and Soviet armies is similar to that in operation in the Australian Military Forces.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
n. - The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
The full information desired by the honorable member is not yet to hand. When it is received the reply will he furnished.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450516_reps_17_182/>.